OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Scottie Scheffler was feeling good enough with his short game that he was willing to take on a long shot with high risk. Just like everything else Saturday, it worked out just fine for him in the BMW Championship.
In wind that gusted through tree-lined Olympia Fields, Scheffler hit a driver off the fairway on the par-5 15th hole that traveled 299 yards — a lot of it on the ground — to just short of the green to set up his seventh and final birdie in a round of 6-under 64.
It gave him a share of the lead with Matt Fitzpatrick, who played a clean round until having to salvage bogey on the final hole for a 66.
"I haven't hit driver off the deck as much with this driver as I have drivers in the past,” Scheffler said. “The shot is really shaped well for that kind of play. ... I tried it the first day because I thought it would be fu, and I hit a pretty good shot. And then I did it again today because it was fun.”
Equally fun was seeing so many putts go in, no matter the distance. Scheffler made two short birdie putts at the start and one-putted the opening five holes. He wasn't hitting it his best, and his bunker play in particular — along with making the putts — made all the difference.
Scheffler and Fitzpatrick were at 11-under 199, one shot clear of British Open champion Brian Harman, who had to settle for a 67.
The top 10 players — all but two have won on the PGA Tour this year — are separated by four shots going into the final round.
But that's not the only way to keep score in the final round.
At stake for more than a half-dozen players is making sure they finish in the top 30 in the FedEx Cup to advance to the Tour Championship next week at East Lake. Among those on the bubble is Jordan Spieth.
At stake for a few Americans is trying to earn one of six automatic spots in the Ryder Cup, with the BMW Championship as the final qualifying event. Strong finishes by the likes of Max Homa and Xander Schauffele could knock out PGA champion and LIV Golf player Brooks Koepka.
And as the pleasant day south of Chicago illustrated, chaos can happen at any time.
Scheffler, with at least a share of the 54-hole lead for the first time since he won The Players Championship five months ago, kept his stress to a minimum. He dropped only one shot at No. 9 and responded with three straight birdies to start the back nine.
Homa wasn't so fortunate. He seized control early and while he was out of position on the seventh hole, it didn't look like a big problem until it was. It took two chips from right of the green to get to within 15 feet and three-putted — missing from 2 feet — to make a triple bogey.
He missed two more par putts from 5 feet and 8 feet on the back nine, but steadied himself coming in and holed a 7-foot par putt on the final hole for a 71.
“It was definitely uncomfortable putting in that wind,” Homa said. “I had a long one on 18 and you’re judging a big slope and it’s going to start running downwind and downhill. So it made it uncomfortable, but that’s why this golf course is so good.”
He still was within two shots of the lead at 9-unde 201.
Rory McIlroy (67) and Viktor Hovland (65) were three behind. McIlroy opened with four birdies in six holes when his round came to a halt, particularly on the 10th green when he three-putted from 15 feet.
Homa, meanwhile, now shares the North course record with Sam Burns, who had eight birdies and a clean card for a 62. That was valuable because it put Burns in the group at 7-under 203 and it revived his chances of going to East Lake.
He had opened with rounds of 71-70, not the ideal start for someone who came into Olympia Fields at No. 30 in the FedEx Cup. The four-way tie for seventh projects him inside the top 20, and now it's a matter of staying there.
There's also the small matter of the Ryder Cup. Burns is No. 12 in the standings and has only one top 10 since winning the Dell Match Play in March.
“A lot of it’s out of my control,” Burns said. “The only thing I can do is go out there and play hard and compete. At the end of the day, whatever happens, I can be OK with it."
Denny McCarthy (No. 34) also played bogey-free for a 65 that gives him a chance to advance. He also was in the group at 7-under with Justin Rose (No. 32), who also is poised to move into the top 30 and head to Atlanta.
Spieth, meanwhile, could have all but locked up a spot at East Lake a week ago until he dropped two shots over his last four holes. That moved him to No. 27 in the FedEx Cup. He made only one birdie — and not until the 12th hole — for a 72 and goes into the final round projected to be a fraction out of the top 30.
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