Sergio Garcia wears the uneasy title of “best active player without a Major” well – especially when there’s big stakes on the line.
Garcia fired a 6-under 64 to take a 1-shot lead at the BMW Championship on Friday -the third leg of the FedExCup playoffs.
Garcia will need to keep up his frantic pace if he wants to hold onto the lead heading into the weekend.
American Ryan Palmer also shot a 64 and is 1 stroke back at 7-under. Billy Horschel -the runner-up last week at the Deutsche Bank Championship – and world No. 1 Rory McIlroy – are both 2 strokes back at 6-under.
A McIlroy win would all but guarantee him the FedExCup title and the $10 million prize that goes with it.
Garcia is presently 23rd in the standings; only the top 30 players make it to the TOUR Championship next week in Atlanta. He was 2-under at the turn thanks to an eagle 2 on No. 7, and added four birdies between 11 and 18.
Palmer, who started the day tied for 13th, also eagled No. 7, and had four birdies between 13 and 18.
A day after birdying the first three holes in succession, McIlroy started slowly, sitting at even par through 14 before three consecutive birdies got him to a 3-under 68.
He and Horschel are two strokes ahead of Masters champion Bubba Watson, Canada’s Graham DeLaet and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, all tied for fifth at 4-under.
The thick top 10 also includes American Rickie Fowler, 2013 FedExCup champion Henrik Stenson, 2013 Rookie of the Year Jordan Spieth, and world No. 2 Adam Scott tied for eigth at 3-under.
Tied for the lead on Day 1, Spieth dropped back with an even-par 70, while Scott fired a 4-under 66 to rally from 29th into the top 10.
Overall points leader Chris Kirk underwhelmed for a second straight day, shooting his second consecutive 1-over 71 to remain tied for 29th at 2-over.
Phil Mickelson is unlikely to survive the cut to the final 30 after his miserable 6-over 76 sent him nosediving from 22nd to a tie for 63rd.
Mickelson birdied the first hole, then never got below par again – hitting four bogeys and a triple bogey 6 on No. 12.
Garcia, McIlroy and Palmer will tee off together at 11:20 a.m. on Saturday as the final group of the day.