LEMONT, Ill. (AP) — Tiger Woods is not at Cog Hill for the first time since 2002. For different reasons, he was on the minds of the two guys leading the BMW Championship.
Mark Wilson, who lives about 15 minutes away from the public course in the suburbs south of Chicago, began his second round Friday with a careless bogey when he missed the green to the left and chipped to about 10 feet.
That was enough to make him remember Woods. They were paired in the last group of the third round two years ago, and Woods hooked his opening tee shot into a bunker and made bogey. By the end of the round, Woods had his lowest score of the year and had a seven-shot lead.
“The first thing that popped in my mind was when I played with Tiger in 2009. He shot 62 after an opening bogey,” Wilson said after he recovered for a 5-under 66. “So obviously my mind is in the right place thinking of stuff like that. I made a bunch of birdies after that. I feel good about going into the weekend.”
Wilson didn’t have a big lead. He had to settle for a share of the lead with Justin Rose, who had a 68 and had his own remembrance of Woods.
They were paired in the final round in 2007, in the second-to-last group, when Woods got near the lead and hit the gas. He holed a long birdie putt on the 12th and wound up with a 63 for a two-shot victory.
“I remember that day clearly,” Rose said. “We were both sort of 4 under through seven or eight holes, going along really nicely. He was very jovial and laughing and joking around to start with, and then the way he closed it out was a huge learning curve right there. He got more and more focused, more and more into his shot, more tunnel vision as the round went on.
“I thought about that funnily enough on the 13th tee, about the way he closed that round out,” Rose said. “It definitely is a big lesson when you see someone playing that way and the way they have the ability to close out. There’s nobody better than him at that, so it was a good lesson to learn that day.”
Rose wound up making a bogey from the bunker on the 13th hole to slip two shots behind Wilson, but he closed strong. First, it was a 3-iron over the flag to about 30 feet on the par-5 15th that led to eagle, followed by a birdie on the next hole for the outright lead. He missed the fairway on No. 18 and made bogey, although he still shared the lead with Wilson at 11-under 131.
Considering that Rose opened with a 63 – tying the lowest start ever at this tournament – a 68 put him in a good frame of mind.
“You never quite know what to expect after playing so well in the first round,” Rose said. “Actually, my caddie said it’s the best round he’s seen in 20 years out there from a ball-striking perspective. So, there’s only one way to go from there. But today was good.”
It was even better for Wilson, who considers Cog Hill a home course after he moved to the area. Wilson again had a large following of friends and family, and he treated them to a good show. He ran off four straight birdies around the turn, starting with a wedge to tap-in range at No. 8, and was steady the rest of the way for a 66.
Webb Simpson, who leads the FedEx Cup and has won two of his last three tournaments, made his only bogey of the tournament on the fifth hole but was otherwise solid in his round of 68 that left him two shots behind.
They will be in the final group Saturday morning, when the tee times are moved forward to finish in time for NBC Sports to televise the Notre Dame football game.
John Senden of Australia, who is No. 55 in the FedEx Cup and needs a top-five finish to advance to the Tour Championship, had a 66 and was alone in fourth place at 134. Bill Haas, who has the Presidents Cup on his mind at No. 12 in on the American list, was another shot back after a 66.
This is a pivotal week for two cups.
The BMW Championship is the final tournament for the top 10 players for U.S. and International teams to qualify for the Presidents Cup. Brandt Snedeker (No. 11) had a 66 and was tied for seventh with a group that included David Toms (No. 10). Also at 5-under 137 were Geoff Ogilvy and Robert Allenby, both of whom are on the bubble for the International side. Another shot behind was Jim Furyk, who is No. 9 on the U.S. list.
For the FedEx Cup, the top 30 advance to the Tour Championship at East Lake for a shot at the $10 million prize.
Wilson, a two-time winner early in the season, already is a lock for East Lake. He would have to win the BMW Championship to earn a spot on the Presidents Cup team, although it could come with an even greater bonus. No one on the PGA Tour has really stood out this year, and these next few weeks are likely to go a long way toward deciding player of the year.
Wilson really isn’t part of the conversation yet. His wins were eight months ago, against fields that were not terribly strong. A win at Cog Hill would be different, not to mention timely.
“That would put me with the most wins of anybody, and then going into East Lake if I can get another one there, I think I’d have a good argument. That’s a lot of ‘ifs,'” Wilson said. “I’ve played great so far. There are a lot of great players out here, but I feel like I’m playing very close to the same form I had when I started the year out. My mind is in a better place, and I’m just kind of accepting the results.
“But yeah, I would definitely put myself in there. Certainly not right now, but I need at least one more win, two more wins to probably be in that discussion.”