LEMONT, Ill. – Matt Kuchar was feeling terrible and playing even worse. He managed to hold himself together long enough Friday to salvage a 1-over 72 and share the lead with Charlie Wi in the BMW Championship.
Kuchar made four bogeys through eight holes to tumble down the leaderboard, then rallied with five birdies over his last 10 holes to catch Wi, who played in the morning and shot a 69.
They were at 6-under 136 and had a one-shot lead over Marc Leishman of Australia, whose 65 was the best of the day on a Cog Hill course that was getting a steady stream of criticism.
Tiger Woods, the defending champion and a five-time winner at Cog Hill, was resigned to the fact that the greens were not pure. He didn’t make very many putts, threw in a double bogey for the second straight day and shot a 72, leaving him in a tie for 40th, nine shots behind.
It was the first time Woods opened with consecutive rounds over par at Cog Hill since he was an 18-year-old amateur.
“I made nothing today,” he said. “I hit the ball a hell of a lot better than my score indicates.”
The only score that matters – along with the number on his card – is his rank in the FedEx Cup standings. Woods is No. 51 and needs to finish around fifth at Cog Hill week to qualify for the Tour Championship in two weeks.
Kuchar already has reservations at East Lake. He is No. 1 in the standings having won the playoff opener, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s tied for the lead going into the weekend.
How much longer he lasts remains the question.
Kuchar, who first thought he had laryngitis, isn’t sure whether he has a viral or bacterial infection. All he knows is that he barely had enough strength to stay upright in warm afternoon temperatures, much less concentrate on the shot at hand.
“I was as weak as I could be,” Kuchar said. “I tried for the four or five seconds over the ball to flip the switch on and really give it what I had, and go back to walking around without a whole lot of energy.”
His rally began with a birdie on the ninth hole, and it really took off on the par-3 12th with a 30-foot birdie putt. That was the start of five consecutive one-putt greens – four birdies, and a stout par on the 14th when he got up-and-down from a sidehill lie outside the bunker.
“That kind of made me feet a little better again, seeing the putt go in,” Kuchar said of the birdie on No. 12. “I knew that some good things would happen if I could just kind of hang in there the best I could.”
Wi refused to let one blunder ruin his day. He reached 8 under for the tournament until hooking a 3-wood on the 16th hole into a hazard, failing to reach the green and three-putting for triple bogey when he finally did. He bounced back with a birdie on the next hole.
Wi is No. 37 in the standings and is closer than ever to his first Tour Championship, which comes with a spot in three of the majors.
“For me to play well, I knew that I had to stay in the present and just play one hole at a time,” he said. “Actually, I wrote that down on my pin sheet every day so I look at it if I were to get ahead of myself.”
A trio of Englishmen – Ian Poulter (72), Paul Casey (69) and Luke Donald (70) – were among those at 4-under 138, a group that also included Dustin Johnson (70) and two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen (71).
A year ago, the 36-hole leaders were at 7-under 135, and Woods went on to win by eight shots at 19-under par. A score like that seems unlikely on greens that are inconsistent because of summer heat and recent rain.
But it’s not just the greens.
Phil Mickelson, who shot a 71 and was at 1-over 143, has done little to hide his disdain of the Rees Jones makeover, and at one point Friday suggested that “I’m not good enough to play this course.”
It wasn’t just the players who were struggling. Donald had trouble going at some pins after seeing one make a deep pitch mark and spin back, and another shot bounce and release.
“The only thing I found tricky out there really was the greens,” he said. “They were a little bit inconsistent. with the firmness. Some were soft, some were kind of bouncing on, and it was hard to guess which way it was going to go.”
Woods at the moment is going nowhere.
He started the round in a tie for 45th, shot 72 and moved up five positions. Even so, he’ll need the kind of weekend he had a year ago at Cog Hill – 62-68 – to have much of a chance.
Kuchar, meanwhile, was headed home for bed for an early start. Because NBC Sports has an obligation to Notre Dame football, the leaders will tee off Saturday at 9:15 a.m.