(Reuters) – Hideki Matsuyama had one of the best putting days of his career to take the halfway lead with a course-record nine-under 63 in the second round at the BMW Championship in suburban Chicago on Friday.
The putter, so often the weak link in the Japanese player’s game, did not let Matsuyama down as he cranked out nine birdies at Medinah, five times holing out from outside 15 feet.
He capped off his day by sinking a 25-footer at the 17th and then a 30-footer at the last for a 12-under 132 total, one stroke better than Americans Tony Finau (66) and Patrick Cantlay (67) in the penultimate event of the PGA Tour season.
Tiger Woods languished equal 48th in the 69-man field, 10 strokes off the pace after a second straight 71.
Matsuyama, ranked as high as second in the world two years ago, was delighted for a change with his form on the greens.
“I made a lot of long putts today and that was the difference,” he told PGATour.com.
“It started yesterday during my round. Halfway through I was able to see what I was doing (wrong) on the greens and I fixed it and it carried over to today.
“Honestly I thought I pushed that putt (at the 18th) but somehow it found the bottom of the cup.”
Matsuyama is 33rd in the FedEx Cup standings and needs a strong finish on Sunday to advance as part of the 30-man field for next week’s Tour Championship.
It would be his fifth successive appearance in the exclusive event.
He has nine rivals within three strokes starting the weekend, including former world number one Justin Thomas (69), two behind.
Equal second, Finau has set the foundation for a tilt at what would only be his second PGA Tour victory, though what he lacks in silverware he makes up for in consistency.
“I know there’s a lot at stake this week but the best I can do is try to stay in the moment,” said the prodigiously long hitter, who has had a pair of runner-up finishes this season.
World number nine Cantlay, who tasted victory this season at the prestigious Jack Nicklaus-hosted Memorial, rated a par at the 15th hole as important as any of his birdies on Friday.
“I made some good par saves, especially after driving the ball into the water on 15,” he said. “It’s always nice to go bogey-free.”
Ten strokes from the lead was Bryson DeChambeau, who became the poster boy for slow play when a video of him taking two minutes to line up a putt went viral during last week’s Northern Trust event.
DeChambeau was targeted by some heckling on Friday according to broadcaster Golf Channel, which reported that a police officer had ejected a spectator from the course on the 18th hole.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ian Ransom)