NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – It was still dark when Xander Schauffele made the extremely early trip Friday morning to Aronimink for his second round of the BMW Championship. On the way over, he decided to look at his statistics for this season, hoping to find something to get him pumped it.
Then he looked at his final-round scoring average. Deflation followed.
“Pretty bad, to be completely honest here,” he said.
Schauffele ranks 183rd in the PGA TOUR in final-round average (72.39). Compare that to his first-round ranking (tied for 29th) or even the ranking for his middle two rounds (tied for 91st on Fridays; tied for 93rd on Saturdays).
The first two rounds this week obviously have been no problem for Schauffele, who leads the BMW after backing up his opening 63 with a 6-under 64 on Friday. It’s just the ninth time this season that a player has posted consecutive rounds of 64 or better in the same event. Schauffele now takes a two-shot lead over Justin Rose going into the third round at Aronimink.
And that’s where the challenge really begins for last year’s Rookie of the Year.
“A lot to prove not just to everyone else but to myself this weekend,” said Schauffele, whose group was first off the tee at 7 a.m. ET. “I’ve been failing a lot, so it would be nice to turn the switch and kind of clutch up.”
Schauffele was certainly clutch in his rookie season when he won twice, including the TOUR Championship. He’d love to have a chance to defend, and if he maintains the lead through 72 holes, he’s projected to enter East Lake ranked sixth in points.
This year, though, has been a winless one, although he’s played well in big events. He shared second to runaway winner Webb Simpson at THE PLAYERS Championship, was in the final group on Sunday at The Open Championship, and had a top-10 finish at the U.S. Open. He’s the only player this season with top-10 finishes in THE PLAYERS and two majors.
But he’s still young – 24 – and still learning how to be a consistent closer. The Open at Carnoustie was reflective of those struggles – he shot a 74 in the final round to lose by two strokes to Francesco Molinari. In his last five starts, he’s failed to break par in the final round.
Sunday is not here yet, and Schauffele doesn’t want to get ahead of himself. But this weekend promises to be a shootout – Rose estimates the winner will need to reach at least 20 under -- and Schauffele would like nothing more than to be in the mix down the stretch.
“I have lots to prove to myself,” he said. “I just want to win and kind of handle my business. I feel like I haven’t been doing that as well just on the weekends and maybe too relaxed or what not. …
“I always thought I was rather a clutch player coming down the stretch and this year has said otherwise.”
Xander Schauffele's Round 2 highlights from BMW
Justin Rose didn’t sleep well and was running a little late Friday morning, so he had to adjust his pre-round routine. Usually he likes to have two putting sessions, with his range time squeezed in between. But on Friday, he skipped the first putting session, and gave himself a little more time on the practice green after his range work. The adjustment obviously worked – his bogey-free 63 is his lowest score of the season. “Sometimes you don’t have to feel perfect to play good golf,” said Rose, who is at 11 under. “I think that’s the most important thing I realized today.”
Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods both struggled to back up their opening 62s. Woods bogeyed his final two holes to shoot an even-par 70, while McIlroy managed to break par with a birdie at the par-5 16th to shoot 69. “It’s hard to stay patient whenever you know what you’ve done yesterday,” McIlroy said. “I didn’t want to lose too much ground. I should have been a few better.”
Jason Day hit all 18 greens Friday for just the second time in his career, which was the key for his bogey-free 64 that moved him to 9 under, four shots off the lead. “The game is flowing nicely,” Day said. “Even though when I was out of position, I got myself back on the green and gave myself the opportunity to make a birdie or make a solid par.”
Tony Finau has a streak of 13 consecutive rounds in the 60s – and the lowest score in that streak came Friday with a 6-under 64 that leaves him at 8 under. The fact that the long-hitting Finau is pulling driver out on many holes made it even more impressive. “I proved to myself, any type of golf course I can make birdies on and compete well on,” Finau said. “It’s a golf course that takes driver out of my hand more than I like but that doesn’t mean I can’t make birdies.”
Keegan Bradley, like Schauffele, ranks lower in the fourth round than in his other three rounds. Two weeks ago at THE NORTHERN TRUST, he entered the final round in solo second behind Bryson DeChambeau, but carded a 78 to fall into a tie for 34th and lose valuable FedExCup points. “It’s time to go out on the weekend and do my thing,” he said.
Justin Rose's Round 2 highlights from BMW
QUOTABLESCheesesteaks, I guess.Kind of been a blessing in disguise.Had to be from the pro-am.
Low round – Kevin Na’s bogey-free 8-under 62 that included five birdies on his back nine. Na made 156 feet, 8 inches of putts. “I lit it up with the putter,” he said.
Bogey-free rounds – Ryan Armour, Patrick Cantlay, Jason Day, Tommy Fleetwood, Beau Hossler, Charles Howell III, Marc Leishman, Francesco Molinari, Kevin Na (62), Alex Noren, Ted Potter Jr., Justin Rose, Bubba Watson
Longest drive – Gary Woodland’s 362-yard drive on the par-4 seventh.
Longest putt - Jon Rahm’s birdie putt from 65 feet, 4 inches.
Hardest hole – The 465-yard par-4 fourth played to a stroke average of 4.188, with just five birdies.
Easiest hole - The 563-yard par-5 16th played to a stroke average of 4.261, with 50 of the 69 players making birdie (and one other making eagle).
Kevin Na makes 17-foot birdie putt at BMW
CALL OF THE DAY
For play-by-play coverage of the third round of the BMW Championship, listen at PGATOUR.COM.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Aaron Wise's hole-out eagle for Shot of the Day