OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Big, wide and soft Caves Valley didn’t stand a chance against Bryson DeChambeau on Friday in the BMW Championship. Only the record book did.
DeChambeau overpowered the vulnerable course, and when his 8-iron to the par-5 16th rolled off a bank on the back of the green down to 2 feet for eagle, he needed two birdies on the final two holes to tie the PGA Tour record of 58.
He missed from 15 feet on the 17th. He missed a 6-foot putt on the 18th hole and lost his bid at the 13th sub-60 round in PGA Tour history.
DeChambeau had to settle for a career-best 60, giving him a one-shot lead over Patrick Cantlay when thunderstorms caused the second round to be delayed.
Jon Rahm, the world’s No. 1 player, also was a shot behind and faced a 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole when play was halted by darkness.
“A lot of putts went in. A lot of things went right,” DeChambeau said to broadcast outlets. “I played my butt off and never thought too much about anything until the last few holes, and I striped a 9-iron on 17, striped a drive, striped a wedge on 18.
“And just wasn’t able to clutch those putts up.”
It was the second straight week during the PGA Tour postseason that a player had a putt to break 60 on the final hole. Cameron Smith missed from 12 feet at Liberty National in the third round last week. DeChambeau had an even better look than that.
His wedge landed some 25 feet beyond the flag and the spin caused it to zip back toward the hole, 6 feet below the cup. The putt was wide left all the way. DeChambeau snapped his fingers, tapped in for par and then returned to the spot for a practice stroke, trying to figure out what went wrong.
Little else did.
DeChambeau was at 16-under 128. The second round will be completed Saturday morning, and players will be grouped in threesomes going off both sides for the third round.
Cantlay, who had one of the great putting rounds of his career Thursday, was equally strong in a round of 63 that was largely overlooked. He played in the group behind DeChambeau and played a classic style of golf that resulted in 10 birdies until his lone bogey from a tough lie in the collar of rough around the par-3 17th green.
“Today I hit it better all the way through and also putted really well,” Cantlay said. “I thought I played great — 9 under, I’m very pleased. But obviously, there was lower than that out there today.”
DeChambeau stuck to his practice of not speaking to the press, only the PGA Tour broadcast partners. That presumably stems from three weeks ago when he said he wasn’t vaccinated, saying, “I’m young enough. I’d rather give it to the people who need it.”
It hasn’t been the smoothest year for DeChambeau.
He had to miss the Olympics because of a positive COVID-19 test, and that followed a petty war of words with Brooks Koepka played out largely over social media. DeChambeau has heard “Brooksy” from so many hecklers that he has asked local security to remove fans.
There weren’t so much heckles on a blistering hot Friday, just raw amazement at his powerful swing and the birdies — and two eagles — it created. He eagle putts on all four of the par 5s. His average distance to the hole on the par 4s was roughly 109 yards.
Only once did he not hit wedge on a par 4. That was on the 480-yard 15th hole. He had 178 yards into a light breeze and hit a 9-iron.
“When he’s driving it that straight, it’s got to be what it was like in the early 2000s with Tiger just hitting it the furthest and the straightest,” said Jordan Spieth, who played in DeChambeau’s group. “It’s a little easier from there, but you’ve still got to get it in the hole.”
Spieth already witnessed one 59 when he played with Justin Thomas at the Sony Open in 2017.
The record is 58 by Jim Furyk at the Travelers Championship in 2016. Furyk also shot a 59 at Conway Farms north of Chicago in 2013, so he still holds the BMW Championship record.
There’s still two rounds to play.
“He can bring it to its knees, and he did it today,” said Harris English, also playing in his group. “The way he’s putting, I can see him going out the next two days and scaring 59 again.”
DeChambeau only hit seven fairways, though that’s a little misleading. He tried to drive the green on three holes and nearly did, leaving short pitch shots he converted into birdies.
He also holed a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 8.
He made just about everything except the two putts at the end that could have put him in the record book.
“It was an awesome opportunity,” he said. “I had a couple shots, a couple birdie opportunities at 17 and 18, and didn’t happen. But still really proud of the way I handled myself, and it’s great to feel some pressure again, which is awesome.”