Scottie Scheffler made a few short birdie putts at the start and then kept making a lot more Saturday on his way to a 6-under 64 that gave him a share of the lead with Matt Fitzpatrick in a BMW Championship that is wide open.
Fitzpatrick had a 66, falling into a tie on the 18th when he went from the bunker to the rough, punched out under a tree to the collar of the green and had to make a five-foot bogey putt to at least get into the final group.
They were at 11-under 199, one shot clear of British Open champion Brian Harman (67).
But that’s not the only way to keep score in the final round.
At stake for more than a half-dozen players is making sure they finish in the top 30 in the FedEx Cup that allows them to advance to the Tour Championship next week at East Lake. Among those on the bubble is Jordan Spieth.
At stake for a few Americans is trying to earn one of six automatic spots in the Ryder Cup, with the BMW Championship as the final qualifying event. Strong finishes by the likes of Max Homa and Xander Schauffele could knock out PGA champion and LIV Golf player Brooks Koepka.
And as the pleasant day south of Chicago illustrated, chaos can happen at any time.
Scheffler, with at least a share of the 54-hole lead for the first time since he won The Players Championship five months ago, kept his stress to a minimum. He dropped only one shot, responded with three straight birdies to start the back nine, hit driver off the deck to set up his last birdie and finished with two solid par saves.
Homa wasn’t so fortunate. He seized control early and while he was out of position on the seventh hole, it didn’t look like a big problem until it was. It took two chips from right of the green to get to within 15 feet, and then he three-putted – missing from two feet – to make a triple bogey.
He missed two more par putts from five feet and eight feet on the back nine, but steadied himself coming in and holed a seven-foot par putt on the final hole for a 71.
That was nine shots worse than his course-record 62 on Friday, but it left him within two shots of the lead. Rory McIlroy (67) and Viktor Hovland (65) were three behind.
McIlroy opened with four birdies in six holes when his round came to a halt, particularly on the 10th green when he three-putted from 15 feet.
“The greens are pretty good. They’re just getting a little choppy with how soft they are,” said McIlroy, who was not surprised to hear Homa missing from two feet.
Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., is tied for 11th at 6 under, while Adam Svensson of Surrey, B.C., is 13th at 5 under. Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., is tied for 40th at 4 over, and Nick Taylor of Abbotsford is tied for 45th at 7 over.
Homa, meanwhile, now shares the North course record with Sam Burns, who had eight birdies and a clean card for a 62. That was valuable because it put Burns in the group at 7-under 203 and it revived his chances of going to East Lake.
He had opened with rounds of 71-70, not the ideal start for someone who came into Olympia Fields at No. 30 in the FedEx Cup. The four-way tie for seventh projects him inside the top 20, and now it’s a matter of staying there.
There’s also the small matter of the Ryder Cup. Burns is No. 12 in the standings and has only one top 10 since winning the Dell Match Play in March.
“A lot of it’s out of my control,” Burns said. “The only thing I can do is go out there and play hard and compete. At the end of the day, whatever happens, I can be OK with it.”
Denny McCarthy (No. 34) also played bogey-free for a 65 that gives him a chance to advance. He also was in the group at 7-under with Justin Rose (No. 32), who also is poised to move into the top 30 and head to Atlanta.
Spieth, meanwhile, could have all but locked up a spot at East Lake a week ago until he dropped two shots over his last four holes. That moved him to No. 27 in the FedEx Cup. He made only one birdie – and not until the 12th hole – for a 72 and goes into the final round projected to be a fraction out of the top 30.
Spieth needs a good round on Sunday, along with so many others. Scheffler already is assured of a high seed at East Lake. He clinched his spot on the Ryder Cup team more than a month ago. For him, Sunday is about the immediate satisfaction of hoisting a trophy.