On the range, Justin Thomas had no idea where the ball was going. Some five hours later, he had a share of the course record at Medinah.
Ultimately, all that mattered Thursday in the BMW Championship was taking a good step toward an important goal. Thomas already is set for the Tour Championship next week and the chase for FedEx Cup and its $15 million prize. That’s not what interests him.
“I don’t give a crap about the money,” he said. “It’s about winning tournaments.”
He made his first birdie after hitting a tree on the fourth hole, leaving him a 5-iron he hit to 2 feet. His last birdie was a putt from about 60 feet on the fringe from the back of the 16th green. He did enough right in between for a 7-under 65 and a share of the lead with Jason Kokrak.
The others to post 65 at Medinah were Tiger Woods, Mike Weir and Skip Kendall at the PGA Championship in 1999 and 2006.
Woods won both those majors. Winning the second FedEx Cup playoff event might be a lot tougher.
One week after he withdrew with a mild oblique strain at Liberty National, Woods could only manage a 71 that felt feeble compared with everyone else. All but two players in the 69-man field were at par or better on a Medinah course that was soft from bursts of rain earlier in the week.
Woods is projected to need a top 10 this week to advance to East Lake, where he is defending champion. After one round, he was tied for 50th.
- Washington native Steve Wheatcroft shot even-par 71 and is tied for 43rd place in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in Columbus, Ohio.
Wheatcroft is seven shots behind co-leaders Viktor Hovland and Cameron Percy. Wheatcroft’s round was an unusual one and included five birdies and a triple bogey.
Matt DiBenedetto has been told by Leavine Family Racing he will not be brought back for a second season with the NASCAR team in 2020.
DiBenedetto called it “devastating news” in Thursday social media posts. He’s enjoying the best season of his career while driving the No. 95 Toyota and is ranked a career-best 23rd in points. He has four top top-10 finishes in the past eight races.
DiBenedetto’s post said the team told him Tuesday he was out. In a statement, the organization called DiBenedetto “a talented young driver.”
Leavine Family Racing has an alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, and that team does not have enough seats to give its many young drivers. DiBenedetto will likely be replaced by either Christopher Bell in a promotion from the Xfinity Series, or Erik Jones if Gibbs moves Jones to Leavine to make room for a Cup seat at JGR for Bell.
DiBenedetto is likely to be a candidate for Front Row Motorsports’ No. 38 Ford. David Ragan said Wednesday he won’t drive full-time after this season.