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Brooks Koepka leads Tour Championship by one stroke at midway point

AP, Kyodo

World No. 1 Brooks Koepka took a one-shot lead at 13-under at the midway point of the season-ending Tour Championship on Friday, while Hideki Matsuyama produced four bogeys and a double-bogey in a disastrous second-round 75.

Matsuyama, who started the day in seventh place, made just one birdie at East Lake and finished his round tied for 15th at 2-under. The 27-year-old hit five of 14 fairways and 10 of 18 greens in regulation.

The tide turned when he took a drop on his second shot in the par-4 eighth, putted his fourth shot onto the green and two-putted for double bogey. He dumped his second shot in the water again in on the 15th, where he made his third bogey of the day.

“It was terrible, all of it,” Matsuyama said.

“I hit good shots in Nos. 4, 5, and 6 but after I found water on the eighth, I was afraid my shots would veer to the left. I was so nervous, and I couldn’t turn off that mental switch. I only hit five fairways, and that’s bad.”

Sitting one shot back of Koepka at 12-under are Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy. Xander Schauffele, who shared the first-round lead with Koepka and Thomas, slid down the leaderboard with three bogeys but closed with an eagle on No. 18 for a 69.

Paul Casey had a 67 and was four shots behind at 9 under.

Giving McIlroy good vibes going into the weekend was the score no one sees. McIlroy and Casey are at 7-under 133 over two days, the best 36-hole score in the 30-man field. So he figures he’s doing something right with his game.

The scoring for the FedEx Cup underwent a radical change this year, with players in the highest position in the FedEx Cup getting a head start in relation to par. Thomas is the No. 1 seed and started at 10 under before a shot was even hit. Koepka began at 7 under, McIlroy started at 5 under and Schauffele was at 4 under.

The lowest score to par wins the FedEx Cup and its $15 million bonus.

McIlroy didn’t want to waste any chances, and all he saw from the woods was opportunity.

“I had a little gap,” he said. “Whenever you’re on my side of the tree, you could see what’s on the right-hand side. I obviously curved it a lot. I thought that if I flushed a 5-wood, it might be too long. So I really gripped down on it. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t — might have got on the green.

“Made 4 off a bad tee shot, so I’m not complaining.”

Koepka ran off three straight birdies late on the front nine to tie Thomas for the lead, and then never got back on track after players returned to the range and headed back to the course. He missed the green from the 13th fairway and made bogey. He had to scramble for par from short of the 14th green, and behind the 17th green. But his tee shot found the 18th fairway, setting up the birdie he needed.

Thomas, who began the tournament with a two-shot lead and was tied at the top after his opening 70, quickly got his game back in order and went out in 32, tied with Koepka.

“It would be hard for me to say that it didn’t kind of stop my momentum because I was playing really flawlessly that front nine,” Thomas said. “The course was playing a little different after that delay. … For as much as I feel like I scored well on the front nine, just nothing got going on the back nine.”

He’s still one shot behind, and finally he has a leaderboard that makes sense to him.

Thomas said it was strange for him to see 10 under next to his name as he was starting out Thursday, and that he had a two-shot lead before hitting a shot.

“Today definitely felt more normal,” he said. “It felt like I was just trying to build a lead as opposed to yesterday.”

Koepka will play in the final group with Thomas, the last two to win PGA Tour player of the year. McIlroy and Thomas have won the FedEx Cup two of the last three years. Schauffele won the Tour Championship two years ago and has yet to have a round over par in his 10 trips around East Lake.

Halfway through, and the FedEx Cup finale is really just getting started.