OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. — Max Homa was aware of the course record at Olympia Fields, and not just because of how well he was playing Friday in the BMW Championship. He happened to see a video board just as it flashed a message that Chris Kirk was challenging the course record of 63.
“Just randomly saw that today, and then I had to think about it,” Homa said.
Homa broke the record even with two bogeys, making 10 birdies in his round of 8-under 62 that gave him a two-shot lead over Kirk (66) going into the weekend of the FedEx Cup postseason event that determines who goes to Tour Championship.
That’s more an issue for Kirk than Homa, who already has two wins this season and is assured of being among the 30 who go to East Lake. Not so for Kirk, who delivered a heartwarming win at the Honda Classic but is on the bubble at No. 29 to reach the FedEx Cup finale.
Kirk never really challenged the course record, closing with five pars. He still played a solid round off the tee and from the fairway, a good recipe for an Olympia Fields course that has been drenched by rain and is slowly drying out.
“Today was one of those days where I shot 4 under but it certainly could have been lower than that with all the birdie looks that I had,” Kirk said. “But I certainly would have taken it at the start of the day. I’d gladly take two more of them.”
Homa was at 10-under 130.
The group at 5-under 135 included Scottie Scheffler (69) and Rory McIlroy, who made only one birdie in his round of 70. It also included Harris English and Justin Rose, who have plenty riding on the outcome this weekend.
English narrowly got into the top 50 that made it to the BMW. Even in a tie for fifth going into the weekend, he still has work to do to crack the top 30 and go to East Lake.
“Last week was probably the most stressful because I know how key getting in the top 50 for next year was,” English said, alluding to the $20 million signature events he gets to play. “I feel like this week is kind of a bonus, kind of playing with house money, and definitely more relaxed this week, and just kind of free wheeling it.”
Homa’s round was three shots better than the next best on Friday, and there were no secrets to it. His putting has been strong all year. The key at Olympia Fields was being in the fairway to be able to attack pins instead of having to play toward the center of the green.
Six of his 10 birdies were in the 12-foot range or close, and the others were terribly longer. Homa knew he was on a roll when he reached the par-3 16th tee and realized he had birdied every hole but one on the back nine.
And then were was the poor kid carrying the scoreboard with his group.
“Sometimes you’re just zoning, but I knew I was making a lot,” Homa said. “I heard the standard bearer say something about how he’s getting tired because he had to change the numbers on our thing so much.”
Tom Hoge had a 69, noteworthy because he had the longest day. Hoge was in the last group with Hideki Matsuyama, who withdrew before the final round with a bad back. Matsuyama was at No. 47 and will miss the Tour Championship for the first time on the PGA Tour. It also meant Hoge played as a single behind the other 48 players.
Homa had a strong finish in the FedEx Cup playoffs opener last week that nudged him in front of Xander Schauffele to No. 6 in the Ryder Cup standings. This is the final week of qualifying and the top six earn automatic spots. He could lock that up this week, a goal of his all year.
“All that obviously takes some great golf. You’re playing against a lot of great players,” Homa said. “It has been fun keeping that goal in mind. Because you’re competing against the best Americans, which is a tall task.”
Lucas Glover, a winner the last two weeks, had a 67 and was seven behind in a tie for 13th, at least staying in the conversation for the Ryder Cup.
Jon Rahm took a step backward. Coming off a week in which he finished 10 shots behind, he failed to make a birdie his round of 74 that left him 13 shots behind. Rahm won at Olympia Fields in 2020 on a course so baked out that 4-under par got him in a playoff.
This is a different course, at least for now. It is expected to be dry the rest of the week.