NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – Justin Rose could sense the sky getting a little darker, the wind a little cooler and more brisk. Every shot means so much this time of the year, and the last two holes Saturday at the BMW Championship might mean even more.
Rose saved par from an awkward stance with his golf ball in the thick grass on the slope of a bunker. Xander Schauffele left a long putt from the tightly mown collar on the 18th green 8 feet short, and his par putt from there caught the high side of the cup and spun away.
When the third round ended, Rose had a 6-under 64 – six birdies on the front, all pars on the back – for a one-shot lead over Schauffele and Rory McIlroy going into the final round at Aronimink, a course so soft from rain than the average score from 69 players over three rounds was 67.5
At stake is chance for Rose to reach No. 1 in the world for the first time with his third title in the Philadelphia area, including his U.S. Open at Merion five years ago.
Jordan Spieth was projected to fall just outside the top 30 in the FedEx Cup, which would mean missing the Tour Championship and getting some form of penalty from the PGA Tour because of his schedule. He would have one more day to change that. The question lingering amid the clouds: Would there be another round?
Rose tried not to think about it.
“It was definitely in the back of your mind,” he said. “You could start to feel the weather coming in and getting darker. Kind of had the feel there's some big weather coming. I said to my caddie, 'How about tomorrow?' Just got to get through today.”
Starting times were moved up to 7 a.m. today with hopes that the heavy rain stays away, and that the final round can get in. The forecast has a small window Monday morning if needed. If the rain is relentless, there's a chance of a 54-hole tournament, which has happened only once in the 11 years of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Rose was at 17-under 193, and 13 players were within five shots of the lead. That included Tiger Woods, who missed only two greens in regulation, kept a clean card, shot 66 and let a good round get away. That's how much of a pushover Aronimink has been this week.
Schauffele, hopeful that a victory will give U.S. captain Jim Furyk reason to pick him for the Ryder Cup, stayed with Rose the whole way until his lone bogey on the 18th for a 67.
“Still have a good chance tomorrow,” Schauffele said.
Spieth salvaged his round late again for a 66. He has never missed the Tour Championship, and he likely would face some form of penalty for not having added a new tournament to his schedule without competing in at least 25 events. He needs to be at East Lake to reach 25.
Keegan Bradley made two tough pars for a 66 and narrowly edged past Spieth for the 30th spot.