PARAMUS, N.J. — Bryson DeChambeau kept pouring in birdies as everyone around him went the other direction Saturday in The Northern Trust.
DeChambeau finished with two birdies, making an 18-foot putt on the last hole to cap off his 8-under 63 that gave him a four-shot lead over Keegan Bradley. Along with seizing control of the opening FedEx Cup playoff event, DeChambeau might make it tough for Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk to ignore him.
He narrowly missed earning one of the eight automatics spots on the U.S. team. Furyk makes three of his picks a week from Tuesday.
DeChambeau made nine birdies, four in a five-hole stretch to start pulling away.
What made him stand out, even more than his tam o’shanter cap and single-length shafts, was all the stars around him were in reverse. Of the final 10 players to tee off, DeChambeau and Adam Scott were the only ones to break par. Scott had to birdie three of his last four holes for a 70.
Brooks Koepka, who shared the 36-hole lead with Jamie Lovemark, had a 13-hole stretch in the middle of his round with three bogeys and 10 pars. He shot 72 and fell seven shots behind to enter into a tie for seventh with Adam Hadwin (68) of Abbotsford, B.C., amongst others.
Dustin Johnson, who started the day tied with DeChambeau, added a double bogey to a week that already included two triple bogeys. Johnson birdied his last hole for a 72 to fall nine shots back.
Scott was one shot behind when he made two bogeys, then chopped up the par-3 11th for a double bogey.
“I really switched off there for five holes and made a mess of things around the turn,” Scott said. “Might have shot myself out of the tournament. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow, but it’s going to be costly and make life difficult for me to win this thing now.”
Bradley finished his round about an hour after the leaders teed off, making five birdies over his last seven holes for a 62. He was leading at the time and figured he would be at least a few shots behind when the third round ended.
He might not have expected DeChambeau to be the one he was chasing.
“Just looking at who is at the top of the leaderboard, when I got to 10, I was like any birdie from here on out is really going to be big going into tomorrow,” Bradley said.
Tony Finau (66) and Cameron Smith of Australian (65) were five shots behind, with Billy Horschel (65) and Scott another shot back. Jordan Spieth finally got his putter going and shot a 64, leaving him seven shots behind but in a tie for seventh, boosting his bid to return to the Tour Championship.
Spieth, who hasn’t won this year, started the playoffs at No. 43. The top 30 after three playoff events go to East Lake for a shot at the $10 million prize. For players like Bradley and Horschel, making it to East Lake means getting into three of the majors and two World Golf Championships.
And for DeChambeau, it’s simply the process of winning.
“I’ve got a four-shot lead, and never really been in this spot before,” DeChambeau said. “But I’m excited because this is a new challenge for me, and I always like challenges.”
Tiger Woods had his first bogey-free round of the year, but managed only three birdies for a 68. He was 13 shots behind. In scoring conditions, Woods has seven birdies in 54 holes. DeChambeau made that many in 12 holes Saturday.
“That’s not going to get it done,” Woods said. “As soft as it is, these guys are making a boat load of birdies. And I just haven’t made any.”
DeChambeau’s big run began from the rough on No. 8, one of the par 5s converted into a par 4 for the tournament. He carved a 5-iron onto the green to about 8 feet, made a short birdie on the next hole, hit 8-iron to 10 feet on the par-3 11th and then chopped out of the rough to below the short par-4 12th to a few inches for birdie.
“I was so focused on my game today that I didn’t even worry about anything else,” DeChambeau said. “And so you just get in the zone every once in a while and block everything out and I really didn’t notice anybody else, actually. It’s a great feeling to have and I hope to bring it tomorrow.”
The top 100 in the FedEx Cup after Sunday advanced to the second playoff event at the TPC Boston. Among those on the bubble is Sean O’Hair, who is No. 121 and played with DeChambeau. O’Hair had a 72 to fall 10 shots behind, leaving him right on the bubble.