Max Homa was the hottest golfer at the East Lake Golf Club on Friday.
The 31-year-old Cal grad shot an 8-under 62 — his career-best score — to zoom into a tie for eighth place at the Tour Championship in Atlanta.
Collin Morikawa followed his first-round 66 with a 1-under 69 and resides in a tie for 15th place at the halfway point of the final leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
The winner in the season-ending event will take home an $18 million prize, the largest in golf history. The top-10 finishers are all guaranteed at least $1 million from a total purse of $75 million.
Scottie Scheffler, who had a minus-10 score to open play Thursday based on his performance through the first two legs of the FedEx Cup playoffs, still leads at 19 under after a second-round 66. But he’s got company from Xander Schauffele, now in second place at minus-17 after shooting a 63 on Friday.
Jon Rahm also had a 63 in the second round, hoisting himself to third place at 13 under.
Among the 30 golfers who made the cut to play this weekend, Homa began with a minus-2 score.
He explained he took a fresh outlook onto the course Friday.
“Had a nice conversation with my wife on the car ride home yesterday and had a great talk with my caddie, and then a really good one—I asked my coach if we could just talk five minutes before we warmed up today and just get some advice,” Homa told reporters. “Because I think I know what I do. I just needed advice on how to not do it.”
In other words, how to avoid putting too much pressure on himself, even when the stakes are so high.
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“I felt like I deserved to play well, and I wasn’t even letting myself in the first place,” Homa said. “I get over, hit a great drive, a great 9-iron to 10 feet and think, I have to make this. You just did two great things. Why don’t you just see what happens and trust that you’ve put in the work?”
On the heels of shooting a 1-over 71 on Thursday that left him in 26th place, he wasted no time putting together a spectacular second round.
During a bogey-free round, Homa had birdies on Nos. 1, 2, 5, 7, 8 and 16 before driving the green on the par-5 18th hole and two-putting for an eagle-3.
Three times previously as a pro he had carded 63s — at the 2015 Sony Open, 2019 Wells Fargo and 2020 American Express events.
Homa was two strokes shy of Zach Johnson’s 2007 course record of 60, according to the Golf Channel.
Homa, tied with Tom Home and Cameron Young, is hoping to earn himself a spot on the U.S. team roster for next month’s Presidents Cup.
“I think it’s a small sample size today. Sometimes the ball just wants to go in,” he said. “But I do believe I’ve been putting good work in with the putter and it feels really good in my hands, and I deed feel today like freed up and just trying to, like I said before, just try and trust myself instead of trying to make the ball go in the hole.”
Morikawa, whose playoff seeding gave him a minus-1 score entering the weekend, had birdies on Nos. 3 and 6, then bogeys on 7 and 9 before mixing in a birdie on No. 13 among eight pars on the back nine.
Morikawa is tied with Tony Finau, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth and Cameron Smith at 6-under. They trail Scheffler by 13 strokes with 36 holes to play.
Cover photo of Max Homa by Adam Hagy, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo