If you thought 7,800 yards was going to intimidate the world’s best players, think again. Sixty-seven of the 69 (nice) players at the BMW Championship shot under par at Medinah Country Club on Thursday. The Korn Ferry Tour also went deep in Columbus, and the U.S. Amateur is down to the final eight at Pinehurst.
BMW J Series
The BMW Championship was a bloodbath on Thursday as players unleashed hell on Medinah Course No. 3. Justin Thomas and Jason Kokrak lead the way after firing 65s. Twenty-four players are within three shots of the lead, and 49 of the 69 (again, nice) shot 70 or better. BMW Championship Leaderboard
It has been a rocky season for Justin Thomas. After a red-hot start to the year that included four top-10 finishes in five starts, JT battled through an injury until the Masters. He then took some time off and has been working his way back slowly. His last three appearances have yielded top 15s, so it’s not surprising to see him atop this leaderboard. He has every shot he needs to go low at Medinah, and he’s clearly motivated by his anger over missing out on the Wyndham Rewards Top 10.
He hasn’t won this season (or ever on the PGA Tour), but Jason Kokrak is still in the midst of the best year of his career. He has five top 10s thus far and is ranked 13th in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and 6th in SG: Approach. In his past two events, he has finished T-6 and T-12.
One shot back lurk Jim Furyk, Joel Dahmen, Lucas Glover, Brandt Snedeker, and Patrick Cantlay. Furyk and Snedeker join Thomas as former FedEx Cup champions in the top 10. “Two-time FedEx Cup champion” sure has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it, folks?
A gaggle of players sit two shots off the lead, including Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, Tony Finau, Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler, and Rory Sabbatini. Morikawa and Sabbatini have the most work to do to make it to East Lake, but top-five finishes could get the job done.
After going one over par through 11 holes, Brooks Koepka played his next five holes in five under. He made six consecutive 3s on the back nine, finishing the day with a 68.
The best kind of golf
We’re down to the final eight players at the U.S. Amateur in Pinehurst. We’ve already had a 27-for-3 playoff, the 64 seed knocking off the 1 seed, and a pair of twins making a run to the round of 16. Some of the notables remaining include rising Vanderbilt senior John Augenstein, Georgia Bulldog Spencer Ralston, and Georgia Tech’s Andy Ogletree. At 38th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, Augenstein is the highest ranked player left in the competition. Scoring
One fun storyline to track will be the run of Austin “Squirrels” Squires, the aforementioned 64 seed. He reached the quarterfinals at the 2018 U.S. Amateur, too, before running into Viktor Hovland. This year, after emerging as the last qualifier from a four-hour, 27-for-3 playoff, he took down stroke-play medalist Brandon Wu in the round of 64. He then dispatched Stefano Mazzoli and John Pak in the next two rounds. The No. 146 amateur in the world now finds himself in the final eight for the second year in a row. Squires is the U.S. Am’s equivalent of a George Mason or a Florida Gulf Coast (or perhaps a Brad Stevens-led Butler), and he’s worth rooting for today.
He is who we thought he was
The Korn Ferry Tour Finals got started outside of Columbus, Ohio, on Thursday. Viktor Hovland and Cameron Percy sit tied atop the leaderboard, while Doug Ghim is just one shot back. Hovy and Percy each shot 64s on Thursday, making just two combined bogeys at (THE) Ohio State University’s Scarlet Course. Hovland missed out on his PGA Tour card by a handful of FedEx Cup points this season, but he clearly has the game for the big show. After hitting 16 greens on Thursday, he is just a couple more solid rounds away from getting his card the old fashioned way.
Of the top 15, just three players already have their 2019-2020 PGA Tour cards locked up. This means that plenty of guys have a chance to have life-changing weeks at the Scarlet Course. Nationwide Children’s Hospital Open Leaderboard
Gavin Green leads through one round of the D+D Real Czech Masters. Leaderboard
Justin Thomas claimed he had one of the worst warmups of his life before shooting 65. Full Story from Nick Menta
Shotgun Start: Medinah tamed, teens invade the U.S. Amateur, and an homage to the Western Open
We head into the weekend with a lively discussion on some of the early action from Chicago, Prague, Columbus, and Pinehurst. At the BMW, we lament the modern game overpowering what is a beast of a course in Medinah. We also discuss BMW’s stunning decision to reverse course and stay on as title sponsor. At the Czech Masters, we praise leader Gavin Green’s pre-tournament prep of “eating and sleeping a lot.” With the U.S. Amateur down to the quarterfinals, we go over some of the match play results and the junior presence in the final eight. The decision to also hold the finals on two courses—Pinehurst No. 4 and No. 2—is given critical review. Flashback Friday is a gripping journey from the last days of the “dick sponsored” Western Open to some of its earliest blue-blood origins and eventually to a Chicago event that had the irate loser in an Allenby-esque fit of rage wandering aimlessly around the Chicagoland area. Listen on iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher.
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