Round 1 of the Northern Trust is complete, and in a star-studded field with most of the top 50 golfers in the world in attendance … Troy Merritt leads? That’s right, Merritt went out and shot a 62 early on the day and it stood up throughout. He has some chasers (we’ll get to them in a minute), and there was some disappointing news from other stars and superstars. Let’s take a deep dive into the first 18 holes of the 2019 FedEx Cup Playoffs.
First place — Troy Merritt (-9): Merritt started on the back nine and made par at his final three holes on the front nine on the course for the 62. That means 59 was in play through 15 holes. While it’s true that Merritt’s putter got pretty hot — third in strokes gained putting — he also hit it beautifully, gained three strokes on the field from tee to green and didn’t make a single bogey. It won’t hold (we’ll get to that), but it was a flawless round of golf.
Last place — Chris Stroud, Patrick Rodgers (+5): Only 21 golfers shot worse than 72 on Thursday, and Rodgers and Stroud were last among them. Incredibly, Stroud lost seven strokes on his approach shots (three of them on a single hole!). Both have a ton of work to do on Friday to make the cut.
Other contenders — Dustin Johnson (-8), Jon Rahm (-7), Kevin Kisner (-7), Tony Finau (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Rory McIlroy (-6), Justin Rose (-6): Good luck, Troy Merritt! If you’re leading a golf tournament after one round, this is essentially a worst-case scenario for who’s just behind you. McIlroy, Rose, Rahm and Johnson are the headliners, obviously, but Simpson is the most intriguing. He’s been on an absolute heater and played well with a top 20 on this course back in 2013.
What did Tiger Woods do? Not much to see here.and is one shot out of last place. His tee-to-green game was broken on the front nine, and then his putter failed on the back. If he misses the cut — and he probably will — he’ll have to have a strong performance at the BMW Championship next week just to make it to the Tour Championship.
Who had a great day: Jordan Spieth is back?! Spieth didn’t putt particularly well but didn’t make a bogey and is 4 under. I’m going to need to see it for a full week, but the initial returns are encouraging!
Stat of the day: This is wild. Tough scene out there for Mickelson and Woods.
What to watch on Day 2: The chasers are fascinating. I’m curious to see who among them asserts themselves as the tournament favorite at the halfway point and whether Tiger and Phil can get things together for a weekend push (I’m dubious on both). Merritt isn’t likely to back up his 62 with another, which means we should be in for a fun weekend with huge names running after the first event of the playoffs.
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