BMW Championship leaderboard tight at top going into final round

AP photo by Charles Rex Arbogast / Scottie Scheffler watches his tee shot on the first hole during the third round of the PGA Tour's BMW Championship on Saturday in Olympia Fields, Ill.

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. — Scottie Scheffler felt good enough about his short game that he was willing to take on a long shot with high risk.

Like everything else Saturday, it worked out just fine for him in the BMW Championship.

In wind that gusted through tree-lined Olympia Fields Country Club, Scheffler hit a driver off the fairway on the par-5 15th hole that traveled 299 yards — a lot of it on the ground — to just short of the green to set up his seventh and final birdie in a round of 6-under-par 64.

It gave him a share of the lead with England's Matt Fitzpatrick, who played a clean round until having to salvage a bogey on the final hole for a 66.

"I haven't hit driver off the deck as much with this driver as I have drivers in the past," Scheffler said. "The shot is really shaped well for that kind of play. ... I tried it the first day because I thought it would be fun, and I hit a pretty good shot. And then I did it again today because it was fun."

Equally fun for him was seeing so many putts go in, no matter the distance. Scheffler made two short birdie putts at the start and one-putted the opening five holes. He wasn't hitting it his best, and his bunker play in particular — along with making the putts — made all the difference.

Scheffler and Fitzpatrick were at 11-under 199 through 54 holes, one shot clear of reigning British Open champion Brian Harman, who had to settle for a 67.

The top 10 players — all but two have won on the PGA Tour this year — are separated by four shots going into the final round, but that's not the only way to keep score Sunday.

At stake for more than a half-dozen players in the 49-man field is making sure they finish in the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings to advance to the Tour Championship, the third and final postseason event that starts Thursday at Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club and will determine the champion. Among those on the bubble is Jordan Spieth.

Baylor School graduate Harris English, No. 49 in the standings, is now 19th on the leaderboard at Olympia Fields. He was tied for fifth after the second round but started his third round with a bogey and had four more before making the turn. He kept his card clean on the back nine but still wound up with a 72, moving to 3 under.

At stake for a few Americans is trying to earn one of six automatic spots in the Ryder Cup, with the BMW Championship as the final qualifying event. Strong finishes by the likes of Max Homa and Xander Schauffele could knock out Brooks Koepka, who won the PGA Championship this year but competes in the LIV Golf League instead of the PGA Tour, limiting his opportunities to earn Ryder Cup points.

And as the pleasant day south of Chicago illustrated, chaos can happen at any time.

Scheffler, with at least a share of the 54-hole lead for the first time since he won The Players Championship five months ago, kept his stress to a minimum. He dropped only one shot at No. 9 and responded with three straight birdies to start the back nine.

Homa, coming off a 62 on Friday, wasn't so fortunate. He seized control early Saturday, and while he was out of position on the seventh hole, it didn't look like a big problem until it was. It took two chips from right of the green to get to within 15 feet and three-putted — missing from two feet — to make a triple bogey.

He missed two more par putts from five feet and eight feet on the back nine, but steadied himself coming in and holed a seven-foot par putt on the final hole for a 71.

"It was definitely uncomfortable putting in that wind," Homa said. "I had a long one on 18, and you're judging a big slope and it's going to start running downwind and downhill. So it made it uncomfortable, but that's why this golf course is so good."

He was still was within two shots of the leaders, and he was one ahead of Rory McIlroy (67) and Viktor Hovland (65). McIlroy opened with four birdies in six holes when his round came to a halt, particularly on the 10th green when he three-putted from 15 feet.

Homa, meanwhile, now shares the North Course record with Sam Burns, who had eight birdies on his way to a 62. That was valuable because it put Burns in the group at 7 under and revived his chances of going to East Lake.

He had opened with rounds of 71-70, not the ideal start for someone who came into Olympia Fields at No. 30 in the FedEx Cup standings. The four-way tie for seventh projects him inside the top 20, and now it's a matter of staying there.

There's also the small matter of the Ryder Cup. Burns is No. 12 in the standings and has only one top-10 finish since winning the Dell Match Play in March.

"A lot of it's out of my control," Burns said. "The only thing I can do is go out there and play hard and compete. At the end of the day, whatever happens, I can be OK with it."

Denny McCarthy (No. 34) shot a bogey-free 65 that gives him a chance to advance. He was in the group at 7 under with Justin Rose (No. 32), who also is poised to move into the top 30 and head to Atlanta.

Spieth, meanwhile, could have all but locked up a spot at East Lake a week ago in Memphis until he dropped two shots over his last four holes at TPC Southwind in the FedEx St. Jude Championship. That moved him to No. 27 in the FedEx Cup standings. He made only one birdie Saturday — and not until the 12th hole — for a 72 and goes into the final round projected to be a fraction out of the top 30.