Justin Thomas posted a superb eagle on the final hole to snatch a share of the lead after the second round of the Tour Championship.
The PGA champion joined England’s Paul Casey and his fellow American Webb Simpson at the top of the leaderboard on seven-under 133 at East Lake as he finished in style.
Thomas is guaranteed to secure the PGA Tour’s $10m bonus if he wins in Atlanta, but there looks set to be a real dogfight for the jackpot this weekend with 17 players within four shots of the lead at the halfway stage.
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World No 4 Thomas had a solid front nine with birdies at the fifth and sixth and he added another gain at the 13th before bogeying the 14th.
But he saved the best for last as he nailed a five-iron to three feet from the centre of the 18th fairway and drained the eagle putt for a four-under 66.
“I’m definitely pleased, but I felt like I didn’t shoot as low as what the scorecard said,” Thomas told Sky Sports.
“I guess it was because I was leaving a lot of shots out there. I was hitting some really good putts that just weren’t dropping. It’s easy to get frustrated but I just tried to stay patient and calm and I was glad to be rewarded by that on the 18th. It’s nice to have everything in my own hands.”
Simpson had a three-shot cushion when he stood on nine under with six holes remaining, but he came unstuck with a double bogey on the 13th after he failed to chip out onto the fairway at the first attempt following a wayward drive.
The 32-year-old parred his way in from there to card a three-under 67 which was matched by Casey who also had a wobble on the back nine with back-to-back bogeys on the 12th and 13th.
Simpson said: “I started out with the first 11 holes really solid – five birdies and no bogeys – and then made a few loose swings coming in, but I kind of managed it well on the last few.”
Casey, who had four birdies over his opening 10 holes and another on the 16th, said: “I probably played a little better than I did yesterday. It was very tidy and the blemishes on the card were for some slightly sloppy stuff.
“I’ve been putting very well. I love these greens and I putt very well on them. I’ve had a very good season but I’d like to turn mine into a great season and the way to do that would be with a victory this week.”
Spain’s Jon Rahm, who is also guaranteed to collect the bonus if he wins the tournament, is among a group of four players on six under after shooting a second successive 67 despite a frustrating day with his putter.
Gary Woodland matched Rahm’s back-to-back 67s, while his fellow American Patrick Reed moved into contention with a five-under 65 which was capped by his sixth birdie of the day on the 18th.
England’s Justin Rose completes the quartet on six under and he also signed off with a birdie on the closing hole to shoot a 66, with his only blemish coming on the seventh following a flying start with three birdies over the opening six holes.
“This would be a great tournament to win,” Rose said. “It’s one of those other tournaments that separate themselves from regular events.
“I’ve got to focus just on this tournament and if the FedEx Cup goes my way then great, but some other guys have a say in that one.”
US Open champion Brooks Koepka (69), Jason Dufner (67) and rookie Xander Schauffele (66) are tied for eighth place on five under.
FedEx Cup leader Jordan Spieth unusually struggled on the greens as he missed a number of short putts, but he battled his way round in level-par 70, almost matching playing partner Thomas’ eagle on the 18th.
The Open champion is just four shots off the pace on three under alongside world No 1 Dustin Johnson (69).
First-round leader Kyle Stanley is also on three under after only adding a 73 to his opening 64, while both Hideki Matsuyama (68) and Rickie Fowler (74) appear out of contention on three over and seven over respectively.
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