LEMONT, Ill. – Coming off his best round of the year, Justin Rose figured it couldn’t get much better in the BMW Championship. He was good enough Friday for a 3-under 68 and a share of lead with Mark Wilson.
Rose felt flat at times, especially early on the back nine at Cog Hill on a cool, overcast day in the Chicago suburbs. But a 3-iron into 30 feet for an eagle on the par-5 15th woke him up, and not even a bogey on the last hole changed his outlook on the day or the weekend of this FedEx Cup playoff event.
“You never quite know what to expect after playing so well in the first round,” Rose said of his opening 63. “Actually, my caddie said it’s the best round he’s seen in 20 years out there from a ball-striking perspective. So, there’s only one way to go from there. But today was good.”
It was even better for Wilson, who considers Cog Hill a home course after he moved to the area. Wilson again had a large following of friends and family, and he treated them to a good show. He ran off four straight birdies around the turn, starting with a wedge to tap-in range at No. 8, and was steady the rest of the way for a 66.
They were at 11-under 131.
Webb Simpson, who leads the FedEx Cup and has won two of his last three tournaments, made his only bogey of the tournament on the fifth hole but was otherwise solid in his round of 68 that left him two shots behind.
They will be in the final group Saturday morning, when the tee times are moved forward to finish in time for NBC Sports to televise the Notre Dame football game.
John Senden of Australia, who is No. 55 in the FedEx Cup and needs a top-five finish to advance to the Tour Championship, had a 66 and was alone in fourth place at 134. Bill Haas, who has the Presidents Cup on his mind at No. 12 in on the American list, was another shot back after a 66.
This is a pivotal week for two cups.
The BMW Championship is the final tournament for the top 10 players for U.S. and International teams to qualify for the Presidents Cup. Brandt Snedeker (No. 11) had a 66 and was tied for seventh with a group that included David Toms (No. 10). Also at 5-under 137 were Geoff Ogilvy and Robert Allenby, both of whom are on the bubble for the International side. Another shot behind was Jim Furyk, who is No. 9 on the U.S. list.
For the FedEx Cup, the top 30 advance to the Tour Championship at East Lake for a shot at the $10 million prize.
Wilson, a two-time winner early in the season, already is a lock for East Lake. He would have to win the BMW Championship to earn a spot on the Presidents Cup team, although it could come with an even greater bonus. No one on the PGA Tour has really stood out this year, and these next few weeks are likely to go a long way toward deciding player of the year.
Wilson really isn’t part of the conversation yet. His wins were eight months ago, against fields that were not terribly strong. A win at Cog Hill would be different, not to mention timely.
“That would put me with the most wins of anybody, and then going into East Lake if I can get another one there, I think I’d have a good argument. That’s a lot of ‘ifs,’” Wilson said. “I’ve played great so far. There are a lot of great players out here, but I feel like I’m playing very close to the same form I had when I started the year out. My mind is in a better place, and I’m just kind of accepting the results.
“But yeah, I would definitely put myself in there. Certainly not right now, but I need at least one more win, two more wins to probably be in that discussion.”
Rose is at No. 34 and still looking at this week as having nothing to lose - he wasn’t in the top 30 when he arrived at Cog Hill, so the Englishman figures he could only give it his best shot. That’s not to suggest he is firing at every pin. Rose patiently picked his spots in the second round, and cashed in late with the eagle and birdie.
“I think it’s more of a mental shift,” he said. “It’s not putting pressure on yourself, it’s not getting frustrated out there, it’s having the ability to stay a little more patient, and I think that’s what I’m feeling this week.”
Phil Mickelson is not feeling it. He started his round by missing three birdie putts inside 8 feet—two of them from inside 4 feet - and then had four bogeys on his back nine for a 73 that put him 14 shots behind.
Luke Donald, the world No. 1, bounced back from an opening 75 with a 66 that at least got him to under par. Despite his noble effort, the NCAA champion from Northwestern learned he had a 7:35 a.m. starting time Saturday because of the conflict with NBC Sports and Notre Dame.
Donald ended his day with this tweet: “Thanks Notre Dame for my 7.35am tee time. I knew there was a reason why I didn’t like you!”