Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are going to duke it out for the 2018 BMW Championship, they said. Tony Finau is going to be the final captain's pick for the U.S. Ryder Cup team next week, they said. Not so fast, came the response from Xander Schauffele on Friday as he backed up a first round 63 with a second round 64. He leads the third playoff event of the season by two over Justin Rose, and three over a group that includes Keegan Bradley, Hideki Matsuyama, Alex Noren and Rickie Fowler.
Schauffele has just two bogeys to 15 birdies on the week, and leads the field in putting through 36 holes. He's essentially been flawless on a week where he needed it most. Schauffele, who is fighting to get to the Tour Championship next week following a season in which he hasn't won, could also be bullying his way onto the U.S. Ryder Cup team. It's unlikely that he'll get U.S. captain Jim Furyk's final selection next week, but if he wins by five or six in this field, who knows.
"The expectations were through the roof after finishing up last year," Schauffele told Golf Channel's Steve Sands. "I thought we had a pretty good game plan. I just haven't executed it properly. It's not like I've had a bad year. I feel like I have because I haven't won, but I feel like I've given myself some good chances, and this is another one."
Schauffele does have five top 10s on the year and has played well in the biggest events. But following a stellar rookie season in which he won twice and took home the 2017 Tour Championship, it clearly hasn't met his own expectations.
He could rectify it all this week with a victory at Aronimink, though. I'm not sure the putter can stay quite as toasty as it's been so far, but Schauffele has proven himself a gamer at big boy courses in loaded fields. This week's event certainly qualifies, and he could put himself in position for a handsome windfall -- FedEx Cup and $10 million and a possible Ryder Cup slot -- if he's able to capitalize on this opportunity.
Here are four more takeaways from Round 2 of the BMW Championship.
1. How long can you keep Rory down? Rory McIlroy did not play particularly well on Friday after nearly torching the course to the ground on Thursday in the first round. He lost three strokes to the field with his putter and wasn't quite as accurate off the tee as he was in the first round. Still, he banked strokes over the first 18 holes and is still in a good position going into Saturday. That's the beauty of a good first day for guys like McIlroy and Tiger Woods -- your off day leaves you right in the mix instead of all the way out of the tournament.
2. Welcome back, Rickie: Oh, Rickie Fowler hasn't played in three weeks? How about welcoming himself back with a pair of manly 65s and a position just behind the leader. He's driving the hell out of the ball and inside the top 10 in putting, too. I openly wondered whether his spot on the Ryder Cup team would be up for grabs because of his injury. I'll keep the rest of my takes to myself.
This is the 3rd time in Rickie Fowler's PGA Tour career he has opened with consecutive rounds of 65 or lower (2009 Safeway, 2017 BMW, T-2 finish in each).— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) September 7, 2018
3. How weather affected approaches. A slow and wet course got even slower and wetter on Friday, and golfers were spinning approach shots completely off of greens. When you think of making a course tougher, you often think of speeding it up and drying it out -- and that often works -- but that's not the only way to confound the best golfers on the planet in a playoff event. I'm not sure it was purposeful, but it seemed like some of the best golfers playing Aronimink on Friday -- like Woods and McIlroy -- really struggled to get a feel for what it was doing or how to solve its speed. Scoring average was down from Friday, but that didn't help some of the guys at the top of the leaderboard.
4. Spieth miss finale? Jordan Spieth is currently projected to finish 32nd and miss the Tour Championship. He's 2 under through 36 holes at Aronimink and hasn't been particularly sharp. We talk a lot about the putter -- and it hasn't been great -- but his iron play has betrayed him this week and he's lost strokes to the field from tee to green. I think he'll rebound and make it to East Lake, but there's a scenario in which we don't see Spieth again after this Sunday until he's on the first tee in Paris.
CBS Sports was with you the entire way updating this story with the latest scores, analysis and highlights from Round 2 of the 2018 BMW Championship, particularly while Woods was on the course. If you are unable to view the live updates below,.
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