Recap of the day
Justin, Jason, Jim and Joel. Yep, a good day for the Js at a softened and very scoreable Medinah where 58 of the 69-man field (Kevin Na withdrew) broke par. Justin Thomas and Jason Kokrak set the pace with 7-under 65s while Jim Furyk and Joel Dahmen led home a five-man group at 6-under which also included Lucas Glover, Brandt Snedeker and Patrick Cantlay. Europe produced one of the great sporting comebacks to win the 2012 Ryder Cup at this course but where were they today? The top 16 comprised 13 Americans, a Slovakian (Rory Sabbatini), an Aussie and a Canadian. Tiger Woods made some promising noises about his health earlier in the week but four birdies against three bogeys left him in a tie for 50th.
Revised outright betting: 5/1 Thomas, 10/1 Koepka, Cantlay, 14/1 Kokrak, 16/1 Scott, Rahm, McIlroy, 20/1 Rose, Schauffele.
Friday weather forecast
Temperatures rise gradually from 70 degrees to 80 as the clock hits 4pm but the humidity means there is a chance of the odd t-storm too. Winds are steady at around 7-9mph.
Leaders after at 18 holes
Justin Thomas (65) –Seven birdies and 11 pars for JT. Missed six greens but got up and down each time, twice from sand. That putter is definitely heating up and he's dangerous from this position (see Focus On at bottom of article)
Jason Kokrak (65) – The first time he's had a piece of the lead on the PGA TOUR since 2013. Drained a monster for eagle at 10 which helped him play the par 5s in 5-under. Pelted 12 (of 14) fairways, hit 16 GIR and gained over two strokes with the putter. All good.
Fate of the favorites
Rory McIlroy (69) – Looks decent enough on the scorecard but a frustrating day still. Birdied just one of the four par 5s and lost over two strokes with the putter. Ranked 1st in SG: Off the Tee.
Brooks Koepka (68) – Quite some scorecard from the World No. 1, his wild ride featuring an eagle, six birdie-3s and four bogeys. He never had more than two consecutive pars and was loose around the greens, missing five in the right number and saving par just once.
Jon Rahm (68) – Managed just a single birdie going out but picked up the pace after the turn and his 4-under lap left him joint-best of the Europeans alongside Justin Rose. Solid stats although lost a fraction to the field with the putter.
Dustin Johnson (70) – Six birdies was okay; four bogeys was not. An atypical lap from DJ as he gained strokes with the putter but was off with his long game, ranking near the back of the field in SG: Tee to Green.
Justin Thomas (65): "Drove it pretty well, and the course is so soft that as long as you leave it in the right places if you miss the green, it's not very difficult to get up-and-down, and the greens are really good. I made a long one there on 16 and made a nice one on 15 from 14, 15 feet, but it was uphill, and all my birdie putts were easy putts. So I was able to hit my wedges close or chip it close or whatever it was, and it just felt like it was a very low-stress day."
Jason Kokrak (65): (After being told he'd holed 110 feet of putts) "Is that a new world record for me? You know what, we gave ourselves a lot of opportunities. We made a couple long ones and a couple nice par saves there from four, five feet, but I think that's the game plan out here. I don't think it's a crazy putting contest on this golf course. I think if you can ball strike this place, you're going to be in it."
Jim Furyk (66): "It was a good solid round. It was nice to get off to a good start. The last three, four events I've kind of got behind the 8-ball and had to dig myself out of holes and trying to make cuts. To get out there and birdie the first couple, make an eagle at 5, kind of off to the races."
Brandt Snedeker (66): "I mean, the golf course has not changed at all since 2012. Maybe a few yardages here and there, but for the most part it's the same. We played a ton of practice rounds here, played probably six or eight times that week of the Ryder Cup year. So I pulled on all those old images I had, and good memories, I kind of locked out the bad ones. But it definitely made a difference, I think. I felt probably a lot more comfortable than most guys did."
Patrick Cantlay (66): (On being told he hit just 11 GIR) "I hit a lot of fringes. I actually hit the ball really well. And this golf course is a little bit like that; you can leave it on the fat side, and as long as you leave it below the hole you can get up-and-down. But all in all, I played really well, and it was nice to save par on 16 and make the one on 18 to give myself some momentum going into the rest of the week."
Tony Finau (67): "I love it. I think it's a great golf course. I think if you hit it with some length, it's a golf course you can take advantage of. The conditions are soft, at least right now, so it's a golf course I think you can score on if you're driving it well. But that's the key. You've got to hit it in the fairway. And if you do that, then you can score on this course."
Adam Scott (67): "It's soft, so it's gettable today for everybody. It certainly favors a guy hitting it long off the tee. I feel like my game is in a good spot, try and get the most out of it this week and move right on up."
Brooks Koepka (68): "Played good there coming in, but I should have started like that (+1 after 11). It wasn't the best start. I figured something out, and hopefully go work on it here and kind of fine-tune everything."
Patrick Reed (68): "I was hitting the ball pretty solid early. Missed a couple putts early on, but all in all, I was hitting it okay. Yeah, just needed a couple better tee shots. You can't play here out of the rough, and during the back nine the driver just didn't want to get off the ground and wanted to come out a little low."
Tiger Woods (71): "I didn't feel any tightness in my oblique at all, so that was a positive. I just need to clean up my rounds and get going. Seems like the whole field is under par. The golf course is soft. Even though it's long, it's just gettable. Made too many little mistakes around the greens. I had a three-putt and had a couple up-and-downs I should have made and missed a few putts I have been making."
Road to victory at BMW Championship
2018 Keegan Bradley – R1: 12th, R2: 3rd, R3: 6th
2017 Marc Leishman – R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2016 Dustin Johnson – R1: 3rd, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2015 Jason Day – R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2014 Billy Horschel – R1: 4th, R2: 3rd, R3: 1st
Notes: Obviously, this is the first BMW to be played at Medinah although we'll look back to past editions as they help give us a dynamic of what happens in a 70-man field. Not surprisingly, given the reduced numbers, you need to be up there from the get-go; in fact, Keegan Bradley was the first winner since the event started in 2007 to be outside the top seven after 18 holes. He was four back, as was DJ in 2010. Out of interest, Tiger was T10 after day one in both 1999 and 2006 before going on to win his two PGA Championship titles at Medinah. He was three and four shots back respectively.
Fate of the 18-hole leaders at the BMW – where did they finish?
Notes: With less threats to their lead (70-man field), R1 pacesetters have fared well and we've seen two wire-to-wire winners in the last four years. Justin Rose also pulled off that trick in 2011. Over the last seven years, Gary Woodland is the only player with a piece of the 18-hole lead who failed to finish in the top eight.
Focus on – Justin Thomas
A fast start doesn't guarantee anything but Thomas has an excellent record when holding a piece of the 18-hole lead. The last time he managed it, JT ended up in third place at this year's Waste Management Phoenix Open. But on the previous three occasions, he rode that early lead to victory (2017 CJ Cup, 2017 Sony Open, 2016 CIMB Classic). Add in Korn Ferry events and the seven occasions on which he's had the first-round lead as a pro, Thomas has never finished the week outside the top five.
Focus on – FedExCup Top 30
As well as trying to win the trophy, the other main aim this week is to secure a place in the top 30 who advance to next Thursday's TOUR Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.
Here's a look at the current projections if this week's tournament were to be declared over now: