Hideki Matsuyama shoots 3-under 67 to lead FedEx Cup’s BMW Championship as only 3 players break par at Chicago-area monster
One week ago, Dustin Johnson demolished TPC Boston in winning the Northern Trust by 11 strokes, shooting 30 under.
Now? Birdies were in short supply Thursday in the first round of the BMW Championship. Only three players in the 69-man field broke par at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club’s North Course, led by a 3-under 67 from Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama. He held a one-stroke lead over American Tyler Duncan, with Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes in third place at 69 (scores).
“I made some mistakes early,” Matsuyama, 28, a five-time Tour winner, said through an interpreter, “but I was able to come back and play good golf towards the end, so it was a good day.”
Not for nearly everybody else. Fifty-six players – more than four-fifths of the field – failed to break par. Among them: World No. 1 and FedEx Cup leader Johnson (71), Justin Thomas (73), Bryson DeChambeau (73) and Tiger Woods (73), whom the Tour projected to need a T-3 finish to extend his season to next week’s 30-man Tour Championship in Atlanta.
One week earlier, it was as if the old Bob Hope Desert Classic had been resurrected for the best players in the world to annihilate. Now, the survivors for the second leg of the FedEx Cup got something resembling a U.S. Open test. And just in time, because the rescheduled Open will be played in three weeks at New York’s mighty Winged Foot Golf Club.
But for now, the challenge is to make the top 30 in the season standings and qualify for the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club.
Matsuyama, who started the week at No. 18 in the standings, helped his cause at Olympia Fields, where he will seek to earn his first victory in three years. After a slow start that included two bogeys in his first three holes after teeing off on No. 10, Matsuyama posted a bogey-free 4-under 31 on his second nine, highlighted by birdies on two of his last three holes – punctuated by a 67-foot birdie putt at the par-4 ninth – to take the outright lead.
“I'm not sure really what I had going today,” Matsuyama said, “but that last putt, that long putt that went in, very happy with that one.”
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