NORTON, Mass. (AP) — Rich Beem isn’t going quietly from these PGA Tour Playoffs.
One week after he narrowly avoided elimination, Beem kept alive his improbable run Saturday at the Deutsche Bank Championship with birdies on his last four holes for a 5-under 66, leaving him in a three-way tie with Mike Weir and Aaron Baddeley.
Beem cannot finish lower than second if he wants to advance to the third tournament next week, and a crowded leaderboard with 36 holes remaining includes Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, who each shot 64 to get within three of the lead.
But it was another impressive performance by Beem, who is slowly becoming the poster boy that even long shots are allowed to dream of a $10 million prize for the winner of the FedEx Cup.
“Of all the things I could be the poster child for, this is not the one that I would have picked,” said Beem, who went from 134th to 113th in the standings with his tie for seventh last week at The Barclays. “It’s kind of crazy how it’s all coming together, but I sure am having fun. This is certainly interesting. I’ve just got to keep trying to make some putts, and who knows?”
Beem isn’t the only player desperate for a good week.
Weir, the former Masters champion and recent captain’s pick for the Presidents Cup, needs to finish in the top five to have any chance of moving into the top 70 in the playoff standings and advance to the BMW Championship outside Chicago.
This is the first time since a year ago at Pebble Beach that Weir has been atop the leaderboard through 36 holes, and the Canadian has gone three years without winning.
That weighs more on him than the FedEx Cup.
“I just want to play well for myself,” Weir said. “It’s been a while since I’ve hoisted a trophy, and more than anything, that’s what I’m concerned about. That would get me into next week.”
Weir built a two-shot lead in swirling wind at TPC Boston, losing his grip on the lead over his last two holes. His tee shot on the par-3 eighth missed to the green to the right and led to bogey, and his approach on the ninth went just over the green, leaving him a downhill look at the hole that took him three shots to get down. He still shot a 68 and had few complaints.
Baddeley birdied his final hole for a 66, in contention for the second straight year at the Deutsche Bank.
They were at 9-under 133, one shot clear of Mickelson, Sean O’Hair (66), Brett Wetterich (68) and Ryan Moore (69).
In round two with the Big Three, Woods, Mickelson and Vijay Singh finally delivered the golf everyone expected to see. Another large crowd chased them around the course in morning sunshine and rarely had a muted moment. There were only six holes on which no one in this glamor group made a birdie, and they were a combined 19 under par.
In the opening round, they were a combined 3 over.
“This is what we were hoping for and kind of expecting yesterday,” Mickelson said.
Lefty was the first to get going, chipping in for birdie on the 15th, for eagle on the 18th and finishing a torrid eight-hole stretch with a flop shot that skipped hard past the flag, stopped, then spun back to 3 feet for birdie on the par-5 second.
That seemed to wake up Woods, who was six shots behind Mickelson at that point.
On the 298-yard fourth hole where he took three shots out of a bunker and made double bogey in the opening round, he got his revenge. Woods hit a driver that the wind held up and deposited on the green some 35 feet right of the flag, and he holed it for eagle. That turned out to be a four-shot swing from Friday, and it came in the middle of a six-hole stretch in which Woods was 6 under.
He wound up at 6-under 136, along with playoff points leader Steve Stricker (69).
“I knew that 3 or 4 under would put me right back in the tournament,” Woods said. “Now I’m back in the tournament.”
Singh was in jeopardy of missing three straight cuts for the first time in his career until he ran off four straight birdies around the turn, stopped making mistakes and wound up with a 66 — the highest score by two shots in his group. He was at 2-under 140.
The cut was at 1-over 143, which spared Steve Flesch for the moment. He shot 72 to make it on the number, and at No. 70 in the standings, has two days to make sure he gets to Chicago.
The FedEx Cup season ended for a few dozen players who were below 70th in the standings and missed the cut, such as former U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen and former PGA champion Davis Love III.
Beem figured to be gone by now. He had not posted a top 10 since January, and needed one at Westchester simply to keep his season going. Now, he has a share of the 36-hole lead for the first time since his ’02 PGA Championship victory at Hazeltine.
Best of all, he feels as though he is playing his best golf.
“You can play your way in,” Beem said of the new FedEx Cup format. “I’m living proof of that.”
The conditions were far more difficult than the opening round with a constant breeze that shifted directions, causing some shots to fly the green and others to land woefully short.
Weir might have gone through the best preparation. Knowing it would be tough to control his distance, he spent an extra 20 minutes working on his short game before teeing off in the afternoon, and wound up saving par six times from just off the tree. Twice, he used his hybrid club to chip.