TOUR Championship 2017: Justin Thomas, Paul Casey, Webb Simpson Tied

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistSeptember 22, 2017

Webb Simpson waves to the crowd after finishing on the 18th hole during the first round of the Tour Championship golf tournament at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
David Goldman/Associated Press

Justin Thomas, Paul Casey and Webb Simpson hold a share of the lead at seven under par following Friday's second round of the 2017 Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

It's crowded behind the leaders in the FedEx Cup Playoff finale. Four golfers are at six under (Patrick Reed, Justin Rose, Gary Woodland and Jon Rahm), and three more are at five under (Xander Schauffele, Jason Dufner and Brooks Koepka), creating numerous potential outcomes.

Right now, Thomas, who entered the week in second place, is in position to capture the playoff title. Only the top five golfers in the FedEx Cup standings can automatically be the champion with a win.          

Here's a look at the updated tournament leaderboard after 36 holes:

Simpson had a chance to start pulling away from the pack on the back nine after posting five birdies over his first 11 holes. Alas, a double bogey on the 13th and an inability to roll in any birdies down the stretch kept him inside the logjam.

Thomas had the lowest round of the leading trio with a four-under effort. His best shot of the day came on the 18th when he hit a laser-guided approach shot from nearly 230 yards that ended up just outside five feet. He proceeded to hole the eagle putt to end on a high note.

The PGA Tour highlighted his outstanding second shot on the par-five hole:

Casey finished the day with five birdies, but a brief drop in his level of play led to back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 12 and 13. Whichever contender is able to best avoid those type of stretches over the weekend is likely going to win the event and perhaps the FedEx Cup title.

Meanwhile, Rose continued to showcase terrific form with a four-under 66. He finished the day with five birdies, including one on the 18th hole, and a single bogey. His strong play from tee to green (72.2 percent greens in regulation) set the tone again as he rose seven spots on the event's leaderboard.

Now the question is whether the 37-year-old English star's putter will heat up over the weekend. He's created plenty of birdie opportunities so far but hasn't been able to get consistent reads on the East Lake greens. If that changes, he could make a serious weekend surge.

Justin Ray of the Golf Channel noted Rose's recent hot streak:

Jordan Spieth entered the week with the FedEx Cup lead, but he struggled to stick within striking distance of the leaders Friday. He could only muster an even-par 70, which leaves him four strokes off the pace at three under after two rounds.

While he has more leeway than any other contender in terms of scenarios to win the playoff title without emerging victorious in the Tour Championship, things haven't fallen his way so far. He's projected to fall from first to fourth.

The PGA Tour spotlighted one of the bright spots from his second round:

Looking ahead, Thomas should be viewed as the favorite, but there's plenty of drama on tap for East Lake this weekend. The close leaderboard paired with players like Spieth and Dustin Johnson (three-under) still lurking should make for an entertaining finish to the season Sunday.