Cantlay leads Rahm by one in Championship

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Patrick Cantlay remains the man to catch in pursuit of the $US15million ($A20 million) first prize at the season-ending Tour Championship, despite the concerted efforts of US Open champion Jon Rahm.

Cantlay added a second-round 66 to his opening 67 for a halfway total of 17 under, the FedEx Cup leader having started the week on 10 under thanks to the controversial handicap system adopted in 2019.

Rahm began four shots behind Cantlay but reduced his deficit to a single shot thanks to consecutive rounds of 65 at East Lake, with Bryson DeChambeau a further five strokes back.

A previously low-key event finally sparked into life on the back nine on Friday as Rahm got to within a shot of the lead with a birdie on the 12th, only for Cantlay to then spin his approach to the next to within millimetres of the hole as Rahm came up short of the green.

Cantlay tapped in to seemingly restore his two-shot advantage, but Rahm had other ideas and holed from 35 feet for a matching birdie.

Rahm did well to drop just one shot following a wild tee shot on the 14th and birdies on the 16th and 17th took him briefly into a tie for the lead, only for Cantlay to follow him in from 15 feet on the 17th.

It was a similar story on the last as a superb bunker shot left Rahm with a tap-in birdie before Cantlay got up and down from the edge of the green to take a one-shot lead into the weekend.

With the huge prizemoney on offer, Cantlay said he was doing his best to make it feel like any other week on tour.

"Everything that I'm telling myself is just to stay totally present and shoot the lowest score I can every day and not get ahead of myself," Cantlay said.

"Sunday will feel like a normal Sunday, I'm sure, but until then, I think it's really important to stay present and I've done a good job of that so far."

Rahm came up just shy of holing out from a greenside bunker for eagle at No.18, which would have landed him in a tie with Cantlay.

"If I could each week choose when I'm going to play my best golf, I would always choose the back nine, especially the last few holes, but obviously you can't choose that," Rahm said.

"I think it just happened to be when I hit some really good shots and make the birdies."

Justin Thomas is alone at 10 under, one shot in front of Australia's Cameron Smith, Tony Finau, Kevin Na, Viktor Hovland and Harry English.

Smith had two bogeys on the front nine but then made four birdies on the back nine to remain tied fifth.

Rory McIlroy is nine shots off the lead on eight under par after recovering from playing his first four holes in two over par to return a 66, the two-time FedEx Cup winner finishing in style with three straight birdies.

Three-time major winner Jordan Spieth is alongside McIlroy and South African Louis Oosthuizen.

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