CHICAGO: Marc Leishman blasted out of the gate at the BMW Championship on Thursday (Friday in Manila), firing a nine-under par 62 to take a two-shot first-round lead over Jason Day, Charley Hoffman and Jamie Lovemark in the US PGA Tour’s penultimate playoff event.
Leishman, 33, came into the tournament in seventh place in the FedEx Cup standings.
But with his sizzling round at Conway Farms he stole the spotlight from Jordan Spieth, who leads the playoff standings and played alongside Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson — who are right behind Spieth in the race for the $10 million playoff series bonus.
Leishman set the tone with a birdie at the first, one of six birdies with one bogey on his front nine.
“I hit the ball really well, which is obviously what you have to do to shoot that score,” Leishman said. “But probably more importantly I putted well, I made the opportunities that I gave myself.
“When you play golf and all you’re thinking about his making birdies, it’s a lot easier than trying to not make bogeys,” added Leishman, who picked up four more birdies coming in for a comfortable clubhouse lead.
Day sliced into that lead with five birdies in a storming back nine.
Former world number one Day, who this week announced that longtime coach Col Swatton would no longer serve as his caddie, rebounded from a bogey at the second hole with a birdie at the fourth and an eagle at the par-five eighth — where he landed his second shot three feet from the pin.
Day, playing with longtime friend Luke Reardon on his bag, capped his back nine with a four-foot birdie at the par-five 18th to complete his seven-under 64.
“A good step in the right direction, especially with having Luke on the bag,” said Day, who won at Conway Farms in 2015 but admitted he “just didn’t know” how it would go without Swatton on his bag.
“I think Luke did a fantastic job out there. We worked well together and hope we can keep that going.”
Lovemark seized his share of second place with an eagle at the 18th, while Hoffman rapped in a six-foot birdie putt at the last to complete his seven-under effort.
Fowler on fire
Rickie Fowler powered to a 65, stringing together six straight birdies from the 12th through the 17th to join British Open champion Spieth on six-under.
Spieth, runner-up in each of the previous two FedEx Cup events, had six-birdies without a bogey to join a group that also included Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello and Americans Keegan Bradley and Tony Finau.
Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson headed a group on five-under 66 after a bogey-free round.
Thomas, who beat Spieth in the Dell Championship at TPC Boston two weeks ago, rebounded from a double-bogey at the par-three 11th with three birdies in the final five holes for a 67.
Despite carding an eagle on the par-five 14th hole, world number one Johnson could only manage a level-par 71.
Reigning FedEx Cup champion Rory McIlroy, who needs a top-four finish to advance to the Tour Championship next week and keep his hopes of defending the title alive, opened with a one-over par 72.
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