MEDINAH, Ill. — Hideki Matsuyama never has missed the Tour Championship since his first full year on the PGA Tour. He played Friday like he doesn’t want the streak to end.
Outside the top 30 in the FedEx Cup for the first time at the BMW Championship, Matsuyama made five birdie putts from 15 feet or longer and broke the course record at Medinah with a 9-under-par 63 for a one-shot lead going into the weekend.
He started his second round with a 30-foot birdie putt. He ended the round with a 30-foot birdie putt.
The explanation for what went right wasn’t that long.
“I did make a lot of long putts today, and that was the difference,” Matsuyama said through his interpreter.
That was a big difference for Tiger Woods too. He made only two putts longer than six feet, made a pair of bogeys from the bunkers late in the round and had to settle for another 71. Woods, who needs a top 10 to advance to the Tour Championship, was tied for 49th.
“I left quite a few shots out there,” Woods said.
Matsuyama was at 12-under 132, one shot ahead of Patrick Cantlay (67) and Tony Finau (66). Justin Thomas made six birdies to offset three bogeys in his round of 69, leaving him two shots behind.
Cantlay, Finau and Thomas are all assured of being among the top 30 who advance to the Tour Championship next week, where everyone in the field will have a shot at winning the FedEx Cup and the $15 million prize.
Clarkston native Joel Dahmen fell back at bit after his first round 66, shooting a 1-under 71 and sits in a tie for 15th place at 7-under 137 overall.
The 10th-year pro got off to a hot start on the front nine, but cooled on the back side. He had birdies on the two par-3s, Nos. 2 and 8, and the two par-5s, Nos. 5 and 7, to climb to 10 under heading to No. 9.
However, he bogeyed that hole to finish with a 33 on the front side. The runner-up at this year’s Wells Fargo Championship then had bogeys on No. 12 and 13 to slip back to 7 under. He birdied the par-5 No. 14 before slipping back again with a bogey at the par-4 No. 18.
Dahmen, who after Thursday’s round was projected to be on the outside looking in to advance to East Lake next week at No. 31, now is projected to be 53rd after his second-round effort.
Matsuyama won four times on the Japan Golf Tour as a rookie after he graduated college, then won the Memorial in 2014 and narrowly got into the FedEx Cup finale. He was as high as No. 2 in the world just two years ago after the U.S. Open.
But he has gone two years without winning, and this was the first time he has led after any round since his most recent victory at Firestone in the Bridgestone Invitational.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been in contention,” Matsuyama said. “Hopefully, I can play well. I’ve been struggling for a while this year. Hopefully, that can turn around and I’ll have a good weekend.“
Cantlay has gone 36 holes at Medinah with only one bogey, and key to his round was avoiding one late. His tee shot on the 320-yard No. 15 caught enough of the wind that his ball bounded right into the water. He took his penalty drop, chipped to eight feet and saved par, got up-and-down on the next hole, then finished with two more good putts, one for birdie and another for par.
“Any time you make a par after hitting the ball in the water it’s good,” he said. “It gave me some nice momentum to close out the round.”
Lucas Glover (69) and Rory Sabbatini (68) were among the group at 9-under 135, both suddenly in range of the top 30.
Woods won the Tour Championship last year, capping a remarkable return from four back surgeries with his first victory in five years. It was an extraordinary afternoon considering where he had been, a moment topped in Georgia some six months later when he won the Masters.
But after he pulled out at Liberty National last week citing a mild oblique strain, he slipped 10 spots to No. 38. While it was a mild surprise when he showed up at Medinah, he’s going the wrong direction in the FedEx Cup.
He isn’t ruling out a return to the Tour Championship to defend his title, but he’s running out of time and not making enough birdies.
Woods hit it to tap-in range on No. 11, then ran off birdies on Nos. 14 and 15 to slowly get back into the picture here. Then he made consecutive bogeys from the bunker, had to settle for another 71 and was right back where he started.
“I’m going to have to have a great weekend and make a lot of birdies and post some rounds in the mid-60s to give myself a chance at it,” Woods said. “Putt well and I’ll shoot good scores. I haven’t done that.”
Jordan Spieth also is on the verge of ending a second consecutive season without a victory and a trip to East Lake. He made progress at Liberty National with a tie for sixth, and he needs another finish like that to crack the top 30.
He double bogeyed No. 8, leaving him at the bottom of the pack. But Spieth rallied with five birdies on the back nine, and he thinks he has the “firepower” to post two low scores and hope it’s enough.
There was a realistic side to him, especially after the double bogey, that his season was done because of how he felt over the ball. Yes, he still has an outside chance. But he sure didn’t sound consumed by it.
“I’m far enough out that I’m going to sleep at night not expecting to be there,” Spieth said about East Lake. “It’s not where I want to live, but it’s where I am.”
Dahmen will tee off at 8:30 a.m. Pacific today with playing partner Max Homa.