Max Homa sets course record, takes lead at BMW Championship

AP photo by Charles Rex Arbogast / Max Homa reacts as he misses a birdie attempt on the 18th green during Friday's second round of the BMW Championship in Olympia Fields, Ill.

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. — Max Homa was aware of the course record at Olympia Fields Country Club, and not just because of how well he was playing Friday in the PGA Tour's BMW Championship.

He happened to see a videoboard just as it flashed a message that Chris Kirk was challenging the course record of 63.

"Just randomly saw that today," Homa said, "and then I had to think about it."

Homa broke the record despite two bogeys, making 10 birdies in his round of 8-under-par 62 that gave him a two-shot lead over Kirk (66) going into the weekend at the second event of the FedEx Cup postseason — and the tournament that determines the 30-player field for next week's Tour Championship.

That's more a concern for Kirk than Homa, who already has two wins this season and is assured of being part of the proceedings at Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club. Not so for Kirk, who delivered a heartwarming win at the Honda Classic in February but is on the bubble, at No. 29, to reach the FedEx Cup finale.

Kirk, in closing with five pars Friday, never really challenge the course record. He still played a solid round off the tee and from the fairway, a good recipe for a course that has been drenched by rain and is slowly drying out.

"Today was one of those days where I shot 4 under, but it certainly could have been lower than that with all the birdie looks that I had," Kirk said. "But I certainly would have taken it at the start of the day. I'd gladly take two more of them."

Homa was at 10-under 130 through 36 holes, with reigning British Open champion Brian Harman (68) and 2022 U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick (67) three shots behind. Fitzpatrick is No. 40 in the FedEx Cup standings — the field of 50 was reduced by one Friday, when Hideki Matsuyama's ailing back led him to withdraw — and would advance with a great weekend.

The group at 5 under included Rickie Fowler (69), Rory McIlroy (70) and Scottie Scheffler (69), with all three among the top 12 in the standings. It also included Harris English and Justin Rose, who have plenty riding on the outcome this weekend.

English, at No. 49, narrowly made it to the BMW Championship after tying for 52nd in the FedEx St. Jude Championship last weekend in Memphis. Even in a tie for fifth on the leaderboard going into this weekend, the Baylor School graduate has work to do to extend his postseason.

"Last week was probably the most stressful because I know how key getting in the top 50 for next year was," English said, alluding to clinching spots in the PGA Tour's $20 million signature events. "I feel like this week is kind of a bonus, kind of playing with house money, and definitely more relaxed this week, and just kind of freewheeling it."

Homa's round was three shots better than the next best on Friday, and there were no secrets to it. His putting has been strong all year. The key at Olympia Fields was being in the fairway to be able to attack pins instead of having to play toward the center of the green.

Six of his 10 birdies were in the 12-foot range or closer, and the others were terribly longer. Homa knew he was on a roll when he reached the par-3 16th tee and realized he had birdied every hole but one on the back nine.

And then were was the poor kid carrying the scoreboard with his group.

"Sometimes you're just zoning, but I knew I was making a lot," Homa said. "I heard the standard bearer say something about how he's getting tired because he had to change the numbers on our thing so much."

Homa had a strong finish in the postseason opener last weekend, which nudged him in front of Xander Schauffele to No. 6 in the Ryder Cup standings. This is the final week of qualifying, and the top six earn automatic spots for the U.S. team. He could lock that up this week, a goal of his all year.

"All that obviously takes some great golf. You're playing against a lot of great players," Homa said. "It has been fun keeping that goal in mind. Because you're competing against the best Americans, which is a tall task."

Lucas Glover, coming off back-to-back wins, had a 67 and was seven behind in a tie for 13th, at least staying in the conversation for the Ryder Cup.

Tom Hoge had a 69, noteworthy because he had the longest day. He was in the last group with the 47th-ranked Matsuyama, who withdrew before the final round, which means he will miss the Tour Championship for the first time in his decade on the PGA Tour. It also meant Hoge played as a single behind the other 48 competitors.

Jon Rahm, No. 1 in the standings, failed to make a birdie while shooting a 74 that left him 13 shots behind. Rahm won at Olympia Fields in 2020 on a course so baked that 4 under through 72 holes got him in a playoff.

This is a different course, at least for now. It is expected to be dry the rest of the week.