Incredibly, top-ranked Scottie Scheffler blew another substantial lead.
Scheffler, who was awarded a 10-under-par starting point in the Tour Championship because he led the season-long FedEx Cup points list, struggled to a one-over-par 71 and is one stroke behind leaders Collin Morikawa (pictured), fifth-ranked Viktor Hovland of Norway and Keegan Bradley at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
Last week, Hovland came from five strokes behind on the back nine to beat Scheffler by two strokes in the BMW Championship, and in the Tour Championship last year, second-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland came from seven shots down to defeat Scheffler by one.
At least this time, Scheffler has three days to make it up.
“I guess it’s a little bit of a blessing to have a pretty bad day and still be in the tournament,” said Scheffler, who has won six times in the last two seasons on the PGA Tour, including the 2022 Masters. “So, yeah, I’ll go out there tomorrow and just keep fighting.”
This time, it was Morikawa (starting at minus-1) who shot a bogey-free 61, as he made a four-foot eagle putt on the eighth hole and added the last of his seven birdies on the final three holes.
The 26-year-old Morikawa hasn’t won since claiming his second major championship in the 2021 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s in Kent, England.
“There’s no better time, I guess, than in our Tour Championship to show up and start playing some good golf,” said Morikawa, who is from La Canada Flintridge and the University of California in Berkeley.
“The way it felt, I wish I could go play another 18 holes and just continue that. But I know what I did today and I’m going to keep those kind of baselines and checkpoints to make sure that when we start out there tomorrow that we just continue that same trend.”
Bradley (who started at 3-under) had three straight birdies on the front nine and added four more coming home in his bogey-free 63, while Hovland (eight-under start) made two bridies early on the back nine in a bogey-free 68 as they all wound up at 10-under.
Said Bradley, who is trying to play well enough to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team: “I try my hardest to not think of the Ryder Cup, but everybody asks me about it. And as I’m walking down the fairways everyone’s yelling at me about it. So it’s impossible for me to not think about it. I’ve got to think, it’s a two-year qualifying process, with the tournament a month away and I don’t think everything is based on this tournament. But it might be. So, better to go play well than to not.
“Sometimes you tee off Thursday afternoon and someone’s already shot 9-, 10-under, so it’s like, ‘Well, I’m nine or 10 shots back.’ Reversing that, I started a few shots ahead of everyone. So it was a little bit weird. You feel like you’re kind of getting chased from the get-go.”
Scheffler, who hit his drive into the water and made a triple-bogey 6 on the 15th hole, rallied with an eight-foot birdie putt on No. 17, and could have tied for the lead but he missed an 11-footer for birdie on the last hole.
Adam Schenk (who started at one-under) carded a bogey-free 63 and is two behind in a tie for fifth with Russell Henley (three-under), who birdied the last three holes for a 65, while McIlroy (seven-under) battled a back problem in his 70 and is down in a tie for seven with third-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain (six-under), who birdied the last two holes for a 69, and eight-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England (four-under), who sank a 14-foot eagle putt on the last hole to cap a 67.
Sixth-ranked Xander Schauffele (three-under) of La Jolla and San Diego State, the 2021 Olympic Gold Medalist, made three straight birdies on the back nine in a 67 and is four strokes behind in a tie for 10th with Tyrrell Hatton (even par) of England, who carded a bogey-free 64, plus reigning (U.S.) Open champion Wyndham Clark (four-under) and 151st Open champion Brian Harman (four-under), who both birdied the 18th hole to cap 68s.
Fourth-ranked Patrick Cantlay (five-under) of Los Alamitos a UCLA is tied for 14th after a 69, while seventh-ranked Max Homa (three-under) of Valencia and Cal birdied two of the last four holes for another 69 and is tied for 17th in the 30-player field.
For complete results and second-round tee times, visit: https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard