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Patrick Cantlay takes a one-stroke lead in the BMW Championship final

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WILMINGTON, Delaware — Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele have gone from teammates to close friends and now seem inseparable on the PGA Tour, so the latest round of the BMW Championship might feel like one of their countless practice rounds.

Except the stakes.

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Cantlay holed 106 yards into the fairway on the par-5 14th and went 65-under-65 despite missing two 3-foot putts. That gave him a one-shot lead over Schauffele and Scott Stallings heading into Sunday’s second FedEx Cup playoff.

Schauffele had an eagle early in the round with a 5-foot approach on the par-5 third hole and he played bogey-free for a 67.

Sunday will be the sixth time in eight FedEx Cup playoff games they have played together, and it will be the second time this year that they have played in the final group. Schauele led by one shot in the Travelers Championship and shot 68 to win. Cantlay had a 76. They also won the Zurich Classic as partners.

The typical practice round is match play of some variety, win-win. This one could determine who goes to the Tour Championship as the No. 1 seed and start the hunt for the FedEx Cup with a 2-shot advantage. It depends on Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, who joined Adam Scott 2 strokes behind.

Cantlay, who was 12 under 201, is trying to become the first consecutive BMW Championship winner since making it into the FedEx Cup qualifiers in 2007.

He knows firsthand the value of being one of the top seeds in the Tour Championship. After his BMW Championship playoff victory last year at Caves Valley, he had a 2-stroke lead going into the FedEx Cup Finals and ended up winning by 1 stroke to claim the $18 million prize. .

“My head isn’t even there right now,” said Cantlay, who was at 12 under 201. “I think the best way to handle this playoff system is to just focus on doing your best in the tournament you’re in and don’t care too much about points, so that’s what I’m going to do.

And there is another reason. It’s far from a two-man show on Wilmington Country Club’s South Course which is sunny and fast on the greens.

Scott, trying to work his way into the top 30 to reach the Tour Championship, held on with a 69 and was just 2 strokes down. He started the playoffs at No. 77 and is coming off a tie for fifth last week just to get to the BMW.

Scheffler, the world No. 1, also responded to 2 back-to-back bogeys late in his round with a 4-foot birdie for a 68.

Collin Morikawa (65) and Aaron Wise (67) made seven players separated by 3 shots.

Rory McIlroy started slow and could only manage a 70, leaving him 5 headbutts. Jordan Spieth, who started the weekend just 1 shot down, missed normal 3-foot, 2-foot putts and had little else to do in his round of 74 that left him put out of action.

Cantlay and Schauffele became fast friends at the Presidents Cup in 2019 at Royal Melbourne and now take vacations together, as well as countless practice rounds. It’s different with a dashboard in hand, even if the level of comfort is obvious.

“I know how he hits the ball, he knows how I hit the ball. If I shoot one or he shoots one, that’s kind of additional information that we can use. I like to use that as a plus, and we’re good friends, so it’s kind of a laid-back couple even though we’re trying to fight,” Schauffele said.

Give this turn to Cantlay, barely.

Schauffele was leading when Cantlay missed a putt by 3ft – he also missed one a little closer on the 17th – and after tying birdies at two putts on the 12th, Cantlay birdied an 8ft putt on the 13th. then returned a lob corner for the Eagle on the 14th.

That put him ahead, and after the shock of a short miss for par, he finished with another lob ledge that deftly used a backstop and rolled 8 feet for a birdie.

Delaware had never hosted a PGA Tour event, so this is new to everyone. This explains why Cantlay, with a wedge in hand, walked to the front of each green to see the slopes and find the best play. It worked on 14 for his eagle, and 18 for his birdie.

Stallings also has a lot at stake on Sunday. He entered the BMW Championship at 46th in the standings and is now clearly within reach of playing one more week.

“That was my number one goal to start the year,” Stallings said.

It’s his 12th year on the PGA Tour and the closest he’s ever been to the Tour Championship.

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