Following a Friday round of 66, Patrick Cantlay will enter the weekend at The TOUR Championship holding a one-shot advantage over Jon Rahm.
The 29-year-old California native was error free on day two at East Lake, finishing with 14 pars and four birdies, including two late gains on 17 and 18 to leapfrog his Spanish rival.
“I thought the two rounds were very similar, mostly mistake-free, both rounds, and I hit the ball pretty well, kept the ball in control, fat side mostly, and had really nice speed on the greens and just didn’t make very much,” said Cantlay.
“But that can kind of be this golf course because of the degree of slope they put the pins on is very extreme. So you have putts and you might be 10, 12 feet, but you almost have to be a little defensive or at least you have to be careful because the pins are on so much slope.
“But I thought it was a good start. I’m playing really well and I think I’m playing the golf course the right way.”
Rahm, meanwhile, posted a second-straight 65 to maintain a firm hold on the second spot at 16 under. The world No. 1 signed for a scorecard featuring one bogey and six birdies, including a closing hat trick on Nos. 16, 17 and 18.
“Yeah, if I could each week choose when I’m going to play my best golf, I would always choose the back nine, especially the last few holes, but obviously you can’t choose that,” said Rahm.
“I think it just happened to be when I hit some really good shots and make the birdies. At the same time, there were some bad shots out there. I didn’t play 10 or 11 good at all. I was just able to make some great saves for par. I made a great save for bogey on 14, a great up-and-down as well at 15. And great chip in technically on 13. So essentially played four good holes and I made four birdies.
“So I think that’s the key and that’s been the key all week. I’ve been able to get a lot of good up-and-downs, and avoiding those mistakes is what allows me to keep going.
“Hopefully I can just keep playing those final holes really well and give myself a chance on the weekend.”
Five further back was Bryson DeChambeau, who shot 67 to sit alone in fourth on 11 under.
Two late dropped shots ruined an otherwise impressive round for Justin Thomas, who finished with a 67 to sit solo fourth on 10-under par.
“It was scrappy. It was a grind,” said Thomas, when asked to describe his Friday round.
“Disappointing. I mean, to finish the way I did was definitely disappointing. But to be even 5-under with how I was driving it was pretty impressive. I just really, for as good as I drove it yesterday, and I felt as in control as I was, I hit some really squirrely drives and try to go figure that out on the range here this afternoon.
“But, yeah, I mean, I’m close. I’m in a good spot going into this weekend. Obviously I would like to be a little closer but there’s nothing I can do.”
One further back on 8-under par, tied for fifth, was a fivesome featuring Kevin Na (67), Tony Finau (67), Viktor Hovland (68), Cameron Smith (68) and Harris English (69).
2021 TOUR Championship
Pos-Player (Rd 2)
1. Patrick Cantlay -17 (-4)
2. Jon Rahm -16 (-5)
3. Bryson DeChambeau -11 (-3)
4. Justin Thomas -10 (-3)
5. Kevin Na -9 (-3)
5. Tony Finau -9 (-3)
5. Viktor Hovland -9 (-2)
5. Cameron Smith -9 (-2)
5. Harris English -9 (-1)
10. Rory McIlroy -8 (-4)
10. Louis Oosthuizen -8 (-3)
10. Jordan Spieth -8 (-3)
Top-5 Gross Scores
Pos-Player (Rd 2)
1. Jon Rahm -10 (-5)
2. Patrick Cantlay -7 (-4)
2. Kevin Na -7 (-3)
2. Billy Horschel -7 (-2)
5. Rory McIlroy -6 (-4)
5. Justin Thomas -6 (-3)
5. Viktor Hovland -6 (-2)