FEELING AS THOUGH he had nothing to lose, Justin Rose put himself in position for a big gain with his best round of the year Thursday in the BMW Championship.
Rose made birdie on half of his holes at Cog Hill, a tough course that played even longer in chilly conditions, giving him an 8-under 63 and a two-shot lead over Webb Simpson and Mark Wilson.
“Didn’t expect that going out there today,” Rose said. “I looked to the weather, looked at the temperature, and I thought today was going to be a day to hang in there. Little did I know I was about to play so well — certainly my best round of the year by a long, long way. And could have been top five, top 10 rounds I’ve ever played for sure.”
There were other reasons he didn’t see it coming.
Since a solid spring through the Masters, the 31-year-old player from England lost his way and went 10 straight tournaments without a top-10 finish. He is No. 34 in the FedEx Cup, and because only the top 30 advance to the Tour Championship and a shot at the $10 million bonus, Rose figured he might as well give it his best shot.
One round made his prospects for the FedEx Cup brighten considerably, although plenty of other players took advantage of relatively soft greens that made up for the swirling breeze and temperatures that eventually climbed into the 60s.
Simpson remained hot despite the weather.
He won for the first time on the PGA Tour a month ago at Greensboro, then won again two weeks later in the Deutsche Bank Championship to move to the top of the FedEx Cup and assure himself one of the coveted top five positions at East Lake. Another week, another course, and there he is again, even in spite of a very public shank on the eighteenth hole.
The shank may have drawn gasps from the gallery and stolen its fair share of headlines, but as Simpson explained to CBS’s Steve Elling in a post-round interview, he’s really not that surprised by them anymore.
“‘I probaby shank one every other day on the range,’ he said, noting that his hips clear so quickly that sometimes the club lags behind at impact. ‘I don’t get too panicked. It’s a little embarrassing.”
The measure of Rose’s good round was that his 63 was nearly nine shots better than the average score in the opening round, and only 16 other players managed to break 70.
K.J. Choi opened with a 67, while the group at 68 featured Jim Furyk and Camilo Villegas, both of whom need a big week to advance to the Tour Championship. Villegas narrowly got into the FedEx Cup playoffs, starting at No. 109, and now has the Tour Championship in his sights.
– additional reporting by the AP