Furyk and Donald share the lead
Jim Furyk and Luke Donald share a one-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Tour Championship in Atlanta.
Jim Furyk, the man who began the FedEx Cup play-offs by oversleeping and being disqualified, now looms as the biggest threat to Luke Donald’s hopes of a £7.2million jackpot this weekend.
While Paul Casey fell back badly late in the second round of the Tour Championship in Atlanta, playing partner Furyk produced a brilliant best-of-the-day 65 to reach halfway on eight under par.
But Donald, with his short game razor-sharp, matched that aggregate with a second successive 66 and they are a stroke ahead of Australian Geoff Ogilvy.
Casey, with a definite point to prove after Donald received a Ryder Cup wildcard and he missed out, finished with three bogeys and from joint overnight leader now has five strokes to make up.
Furyk, who at Celtic Manor next week will collect his seventh cap, was thrown out of the first of the four play-off events for missing his tee-off time – not in the tournament itself, but the curtain-raising pro-am.
That rule was subsequently changed, but Furyk returned the following week and by winning on Sunday may well pocket the near £6.4million FedEx bonus as well as the £860,000 first prize.
He chipped in on the first hole – playing partner Casey also birdied it – and after turning in 33 to be two behind Donald he overtook him by picking up more shots at the 11th, 14th and 15th with a putter he bought recently for under £20.
But Donald matched the birdie on the long 15th, then made a 30-footer at the next and got out of trouble at the two closing holes.
Casey was left wishing he could have done the same.
He was in no fewer than six bunkers on the last four holes and slipped to fifth place.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson, needing a top-two finish to replace Tiger Woods as world number one, did not make the move he was hoping for.
Mickelson’s 72 sent him down from joint sixth into a tie for 13th on one over and he is now nine strokes adrift.
Justin Rose, disappointed to start with a 74, improved six shots on his return to East Lake, although it moved him only from 22nd to 15th place at two over.
Scot Martin Laird, joint last after an opening 75, was bringing up the rear on his own in the elite 30-man field when he added only a 73.
It was shaping up to be worse than that, though, when he went in the lake for the second day running on the short sixth and found more water en route to another double-bogey at the long ninth.
But Laird, who lost a play-off to Matt Kuchar in the first FedEx Cup event, came home in a one-under 34.
As for overall points leader Kuchar, he is alongside Rose while second-placed Dustin Johnson, the player who denied Casey victory at the BMW Championship in Chicago two weeks ago, is joint 23rd.
Furyk, speaking about the huge cash on offer, stated: “Dangling a big carrot at the end obviously has gotten everyone’s attention because that’s what everyone is talking about.
“The only thing I can really control is to go out and play good on the weekend and try to win the golf tournament.
“It’s a lot of money and late on Sunday, if any of us have a chance to win, I’m sure it’ll weigh on your mind.
“What did Zinger (Paul Azinger) say – the only thing that ever made him choke was money and major championships? But we’re at the halfway point and tomorrow it’s not going to be an issue.”
On the oversleeping incident he added: “The only way to handle that situation was to really make fun of myself. I mean, it was my fault.
“If I whined or complained or anything about the rule, it’s just going to make me look worse. My peers actually did plenty of that for me.
“Hundreds of people told me that I was going to get alarm clocks for Christmas.”
Casey commented: “I fought my swing today and the course is so difficult that if you get on the wrong side of it you’re going to pay the price.
“I really don’t often go and hit golf balls after a round of golf, but I’m about to. It’s that bad.
“I’ll be calling Mr Kostis (coach Peter Kostis), saying please help.
“If I want to get back up there and challenge these guys, I’m going to have to get ahead of it.”
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