The second day of the 2022 Tour Championship looked awfully similar to the first. World No. 1 and FedEx Cup leader Scottie Scheffler carded a round of 4-under 66 and continued to torch East Lake Golf Club. Standing at 19 under at the halfway point, however, Scheffler’s lead is anything but safe. Despite taking care of his own business, Scheffler has seen his lead trimmed to two, with playing competitor Xander Schauffele besting his effort by three strokes on Friday.
Though Scheffler has maintained the two-stroke margin with which he began the week, the composition of the leaderboard behind him has brought a handful of new pursuers. Schauffele is the closest challenger — just as he was after Round 1 — but he now stands at 17 under after playing his final three holes in 4 under. Jon Rahm has also put his name into the hat thanks to an impressive 7-under 63 and is 13 under after starting the week seven off the pace. Both Rahm and Schauffele have enjoyed strong showings at East Lake in the past, and this experience has aided them thus far in their pursuit of the top name in the game.
The same goes for Rory McIlroy, who has recovered from his tumultuous start on Thursday. Signing for yet another round of 3-under 67, the two-time FedEx Cup winner is a full nine strokes off the lead of Scheffler but finds himself in solo seventh. Despite the bevy of names on the first page of the leaderboard, a likely two-horse race has developed on the outskirts of Atlanta.
1. Scottie Scheffler (-19): Although there were moments of discomfort — his tee shot on the par-3 15th barely cleared the water, for instance — the world No. 1 remains atop the leaderboard. He is 9 under on the week, which is just two strokes worse than Schauffele. I can’t imagine the unflappable Scheffler is too worried about his performance up to this point.
However comfortable Scheffler may be, though, the putter must improve if he is to successfully fend off Schauffele and others. After ranking fifth in strokes gained putting on Thursday, he regressed heavily Friday and came in at 26th on the greens. His tee-to-green game carried him in the second round, but Scheffler will not have the luxury of his B game carrying him to victory given how Schauffele — and even Rahm — are playing at the moment.
2. Xander Schauffele (-17)
3. Jon Rahm (-13)
T4. Sungjae Im, Patrick Cantlay (-12)
6. Joaquin Niemann (-11)
7. Rory McIlroy (-10)
Schauffele changed the complexion of this entire championship with a back-nine 29. The man who has been simply ridiculous around East Lake throughout his career has continued to flash his affinity for the property this week. The 2017 Tour Championship winner has done everything right through 36 holes, and if he is able to continue to perform in this way, he will have a realistic chance to turn a four-stroke deficit into a FedEx Cup victory over the weekend.
Rahm in a familiar position
The man who claimed the low 72-hole total a year ago is primed to do so once again. In the context of Rahm’s season, which features only one victory against a less-than-stellar field at the Mexico Open, a close call at the season finale would certainly go along with the theme of disappointment.
The former world No. 1 has been fantastic through the first two weeks of the postseason, connecting on consecutive top-10 finishes and finally finding a comfort level with the putter in hand. While the lowest score of the week may not produce a trophy, it may provide momentum just as it did in 2021 when he carried his form from East Lake into a dominant performance at the Ryder Cup.
“It’s more doable, but he’s [Scheffler’s] playing good golf, right, and we’re going to have to keep on going and play good golf, as well,” said Rahm, who is currently second in the field in strokes gained putting. “It’s going to take a really strong weekend from me and hopefully not a strong one from Scottie. That’s kind of what we’re looking for. I think tomorrow could be a good day. If I can post another good round again tomorrow and he doesn’t shoot a low one, we’ll be in position.”
Take a bow, Max Homa
The two-time winner this season entered the week at 2 under, and after a poor first go around East Lake on Thursday, bounced back in a big way on Friday. Signing for an 8-under 62, Homa moved inside the top 10 and has positioned himself to collect another seven-figure check at the conclusion of the Tour Championship.
“I felt like I deserved to play well, and I wasn’t even letting myself in the first place. I get over, hit a great drive, a great 9-iron to 10 feet and think, I have to make this,” said Homa. “You just did two great things. Why don’t you just see what happens and trust that you’ve put in the work.”
2022 Tour Championship updated odds and picks
Only seven names check in under 200-1 and even that may be too many. For my money, there are only three players who have a chance to raise the FedEx Cup trophy as of now, and Scheffler remains the best bet even though Schauffele is breathing down his neck. The world No. 1 did not have his best stuff in the second round but remains a fair price at -140.
On the week, Scheffler ranks first in strokes gained tee to green. He also finds his name inside the top five of strokes gained off the tee, strokes gained approach and strokes gained around the green. If the putter cooperates as it did in the first round, he will extend his lead over Schauffele on Saturday and cruise to the title come Sunday.