Xander Schauffele shot a bogey-free 6-under 64 to move into a tie for first place at 10-under par after day one of the Tour Championship.
Schauffele, who won here in 2017, entered East Lake Golf Club at No. 8 in the FedExCup standings with a starting score of 4-under par, but after a six-birdie round of 64, the San Diego native finds himself with a share of the 18-hole lead alongside Brooks Koepka (67) and Justin Thomas (70).
“For how important and how top-notch this tournament is, it’s a very surprisingly relaxed week. You don’t see a bunch of guys grinding on the range in 90 degrees,” said Schauffele.
“I just think I’m comfortable, and it sort of feeds into my sort of California vibe surprisingly, just because it’s so laid back.”
Koepka, who started at 7-under, offset a pair of bogeys at the turn (Nos. 9 and 10) with five birdies, highlighted by three late gains on Nos. 15, 16, and 18 to secure a share of the marquee position.
“I felt like the train was off the tracks there on 9 and 10,” said Koepka.
“I hit that ball on 10, 75 yards right. It started 70 right and cut 5, so that wasn’t very good.
“It’s funny about this game. When it’s going really well, you’re never thinking. And then all of a sudden, everything kind of abandons you, and you’re trying to figure out, what’s the answer? What’s the answer? How do I right the ship? How do I figure it out? And you start looking at ten different things, and odds are it’s one simple thing.”
Thomas, meanwhile, seemed to wilt under the pressure of holding the No. 1 position, and a starting score of 10-under par. The 26-year old couldn’t get much of anything going, and – as he did last week, struggled badly off the tee, hitting less than half his fairways (6 of 14) en route to an even-par 70.
“It was very, very close out there, but I definitely — that being said, that’s golf, and I just needed to hit the fairways,” said Thomas, who hit 10 of 18 greens.
He finished with two bogeys and a double against four birdies, including a closing gain on the par-5 18th to at least salvage a share of the lead.
One off the lead was Rory McIlroy, who rode birdies on Nos. 13, 15, and 17 to a 4-under 66, good for solo-fourth on 9-under par, one clear of Matt Kuchar (66) and Patrick Cantlay (70).
Also posting a 66 was Hideki Matsuyama, who got off to a sizzling start and reached (net) 8-under par through 12 holes, but the Japanese star ran out of gas down the stretch and finished his final six with five pars and a bogey to drop back to 7 under, good for solo seventh-place.
Dustin Johnson continues to baffle. The world No. 2, who started the year in typical DJ form (seven top 10s in nine starts, highlighted by a win in Mexico, and runner ups at both the Masters and PGA), has not posted a single top 10 since the calendar flipped to June. He opened with a 73 and was T23, 10 shots off the pace.
Pos-Player-To Par (Rd 1)
1 Xander Schauffele -10 (-6)
1 Brooks Koepka -10 (-3)
1 Justin Thomas -10 (E)
4 Rory McIlroy -9 (-4)
5 Matt Kuchar -8 (-4)
5 Patrick Cantlay -8 (E)
7 Hideki Matsuyama -7 (-4)
8 Paul Casey -6 (-4)
8 Jon Rahm -6 (-2)
8 Patrick Reed -6 (E)
Low: Xander Schauffele (64)
High: Lucas Glover, Brant Snedeker (73)
Birdies: Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott (6)
Pars: Bryson DeChambeau (16)
Bogeys: Kevin Kisner, Tony Finau, Lucas Glover, Dustin Johnson (5)
Double Bogeys: Adam Scott (2)
Distance: Brooks Koepka (335.1)
Fairways: Paul Casey (11/14, 78.6)
Greens: Gary Woodland (16/18, 88.9)
Via PGA TOUR YouTube
2:20 Xander Schauffele (-10), Brooks Koepka (-10)
2:10 Justin Thomas (-10), Rory McIlroy (-9)
2:00 Matt Kuchar (-8), Patrick Cantlay (-8)
1:50 Hideki Matsuyama (-7), Paul Casey (-6)
1:40 Jon Rahm (-6), Patrick Reed (-6)
U.S. Eastern Standard Time Zone