Sunday, June 24, 2018

Paul Casey builds two-shot lead at Tour Championship in bid to end drought

ATLANTA — Paul Casey has his best chance at finally having something to show for his fine play in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

The payoff could be enormous.

Sloppy at the turn, Casey kept a clean card on the back nine at East Lake and holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole for some separation in the Tour Championship. He shot 5-under 65 to build a two-shot lead, leaving him one round away from his first PGA Tour victory in eight years and 144 events.

His last victory was the Houston Open in 2009, though he has won five times around the world since then.

Different about this opportunity is the $10 million bonus if he were to win the FedEx Cup, and the 40-year-old from England headed home Saturday evening knowing he was projected to capture both trophies.

"It would be amazing," he said.

Casey, who was at 12-under 198, has six top-five finishes in his past eight FedEx Cup playoff events.

Kevin Kisner had 64, his best round at East Lake by three shots, and still rued too many birdie chances that burned the edge of the cup. He left East Lake in a hurry so he could take a helicopter to Georgia's football game.

Also two shots behind was Xander Schauffele, the PGA Tour rookie who looks comfortable on a big stage against some players he hasn't had the occasion to meet this year. The 24-year-old shot 65.

"I had nothing to lose last week, and I have absolutely nothing to lose this week," he said.

The top five seeds in the FedEx Cup only have to win to claim's golf's biggest payoff, and those numbers are dwindling.

Justin Thomas, the No. 2 seed and a five-time winner this year, went in tied for the lead with Casey and Webb Simpson. He fell back with a three-shot swing on the par-5 sixth hole when Casey made eagle and Thomas missed the fairway and chopped his way to bogey. Thomas made double bogey on No. 14 from another wild tee shot and a three-putt from about 35 feet.

Two birdies over the last three holes gave him 70, and he was still in the mix at five shots behind. Simpson struggled to 72 and fell to 5-under 205, seven strokes back.

No. 1 seed Jordan Spieth opened the back nine with consecutive bogeys then missed a 3-foot birdie putt on No. 12. He put together three birdies to salvage 69 but was eight shots behind.

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