(Reuters) – Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama drilled a 67-foot birdie putt on his last hole to grab a one stroke lead at the BMW Championship on Thursday, a day when only three players managed to break par.
Matsuyama’s three-under 67 put him one clear of American Tyler Duncan and two ahead of Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes as players struggled with fast and firm conditions at Olympia Fields Country Club outside Chicago.
“Greens were firm and playing really tough,” Matsuyama said.
“There’s some water holes that you’ve got to avoid, but all in all, I played good and was able to stay out of trouble.”
Trouble is exactly where many players found themselves in the second of three FedExCup Playoffs events, where they are battling it out for a place in next week’s Tour Championship.
Dustin Johnson, fresh off an 11-shot win in the Playoffs opener and leading the season-long standings, hit just six fairways but still managed a one-over 71.
“I’m happy with the score. I’m right there,” said the two-time BMW champion.
“If I can get my bad round out of the way today and play three solid ones the next couple days, I’ll be all right.”
Justin Thomas, second in the FedExCup standings, and 15-time major champion Tiger Woods, who needs a strong finish to make next week’s tournament, both finished with three straight bogeys for matching three-over 73s.
Asked whether any thought was put into not playing the round after some sports halted play this week to protest racial injustice, Woods said the decision was made to go ahead.
“I talked to the commissioner and they were on board,” he said.
“So no, obviously there was talk about it because of obviously what happened, but we’re all on board, on the same page.”
On Thursday the Tour said it would support any players who decide to protest in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin on Sunday.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford)