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OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Heading to the 12th tee in Saturday’s third round of the BMW Championship, Bryson DeChambeau’s destruction of defenseless, soft Caves Valley Golf Club was threatening to turn the second leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs into a rout.
After coming up a 6-foot putt short of shooting 59 in the second round and settling for a career-low 60, DeChambeau was on another 59 watch as he made back-to-back eagles on the fourth and fifth holes and was 7 under on the day through 11 holes.
At 23 under, he was four clear of the field and two par 5s were coming up.
His battering of Caves Valley was mindful of what Tiger Woods did to Pebble Beach in the 2000 U.S. Open when he won by a record 15 shots.
“It’s just not a fair fight,” NBC analyst Roger Maltbie said 21 years ago.
And then the tournament turned into a dog fight.
As alarming as DeChambeau’s annihilation of Caves Valley was over two days – he was 19 under in his last 29 holes going to the 12th and was on pace to rewrite a couple PGA Tour scoring records – his sudden plunge back to the field was stunning.
He found water on consecutive holes and made his first bogey in 31 holes on the par-5 12th and then doubled the par-3 13th when he dunked his tee shot into the water. With Patrick Cantlay making birdies on the 12th and 13th, the five-shot swing suddenly gave Cantlay the lead.
A couple more birdies and bogeys from the two coming in and they ended atop the leaderboard at 21 under, with Cantlay shooting 66 and DeChambeau 67.
“We saw it all,” Cantlay said. “It was a little bit of a crazy day.”
Patrick Cantlay plays his shot from the second tee during the second round of the BMW Championship golf tournament. (Photo: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports)
Plenty of star power and firepower will be chasing Cantlay and DeChambeau.
Sungjae Im birdied his last two holes to come home with a 66 to get to 18 under.
Rory McIlroy (65), Sam Burns (65), Abraham Ancer (66), and Sergio Garcia (67) are at 17 under. World No. 1 Jon Rahm (70) is at 16 under.
“You’ve just got to shoot a low one and just see what happens,” Ancer said. “I should be 20-, 22-under. I feel like I made the most out of my rounds for the most part, and just hoping for a really low one tomorrow and just see what happens.”
Despite DeChambeau basically doing Superman things – he was blasting tee shots to the wide-open fairways; his iron work was spot on and he was brilliant on the greens – Cantlay remained focused.
“I’m just trying to stick to my game plan,” he said. “I know there’s birdies out there, and every day you play, you might play with someone that’s on a tear. I’m just trying to stay in my own little bubble out there. I feel like that’s the best way I can go about doing my thing and gives me the best chance to succeed.”
Cantlay knows he’ll need another low one to hold off DeChambeau and the others.
As for DeChambeau, he didn’t speak to the print media again, instead opting to only meet up with Sky Sports and Golf Channel.
“Front nine I played really good. On 7, I hit one right off the drive and it just didn’t feel right, and from then on just the driver seemed like wasn’t really in tune,” DeChambeau said. “But that’s OK. I scraped it around.”
And he has but one goal for Sunday’s final round.
“Winning a golf tournament,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about. That’s why we play golf. Obviously I talk about the long drive stuff that I’m doing, and all these are the facets for the Ryder Cup, but it’s ultimately about winning no matter what.
“Hopefully I can go get the job done tomorrow. I’ve done it eight times; hopefully I can make it my ninth.”