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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, September 23, 2017 1:00 am

Eagle on No. 18 creates 3-way tie

6-shots separate top 20 at Tour Championship

DOUG FERGUSON | Associated Press

ATLANTA – With two swings, Justin Thomas showed that every shot counts in the FedEx Cup, even at the season-ending Tour Championship.

Thomas had six players ahead of him Friday when he smashed a 335-yard drive down the bottom of the hill on the par-5 18th hole at East Lake, and then a 5-iron that settled 6 feet below the cup for a closing eagle.

Just like that, Thomas had a 4-under 66 and a share of the lead with Paul Casey and Webb Simpson and was back in control – a loose term the way this tournament is shaping up going into the weekend – of his chase for the $10 million bonus.

“It's nice to have everything in my own hands and know that if I just take care of what I need to do, then it's over,” Thomas said.

It's not over yet, not even close.

Casey stumbled with some errant tee shots into the troublesome rough for back-to-back bogeys in a 67 that slowed his momentum. Simpson paid for a wild drive on No. 13 with a double bogey and made nothing pars coming in for a 67.

They joined Thomas at 7-under 133.

As one of the top five seeds, Thomas only has to win the Tour Championship to capture the FedEx Cup. Even a third-place finish might be enough to take home golf's richest bonus depending on who wins.

But that list is plenty deep after two sweltering days at East Lake.

Jon Rahm, the No. 5 seed who also has a clear path to the top prize, played bogey-free for a 67. He was one shot behind, along with Patrick Reed (65), Justin Rose (66) and Gary Woodland (67), all of them trying to win for the first time this year.

Dustin Johnson, the No. 3 seed, has been sputtering along. He failed to birdie either of the two par 5s, managed only a 69 and still was only four shots behind.

“I just want to get within striking distance,” Johnson said. “If I can get it within three, I would be happy.”

He was four behind, so it doesn't require much math to figure out he's not far away.

Jordan Spieth was lucky to still be just four shots behind.

The No. 1 seed in the FedEx Cup missed five straight greens in regulation on the back nine and kept in the game with some crucial par putts.

He had to settle for a 70 and headed straight for the practice area.

Twenty players from the 30-man field were under par, meaning they were separated by just six shots with 36 holes ahead of them.

“It's the easiest one to win because there's only 30 guys,” said Kevin Kisner, who shot another 68 and was three behind. “But then I look up there and everyone is 6 under, and it doesn't look so easy.”