By Zak Kozuchowski
GolfWRX Managing Editor
Tiger Woods and Justin Rose shot first-round 66s to lead the Tour Championship presented by Coca-Cola, the final event in the PGA Tour’s season-long Series for the FedExCup.
Only the top 30 players in the FedExCup standings after the BMW Championship two weeks ago were eligible for the Playoff Finale, which means that every player in the field has been playing good golf the last month. If you were to remove the two highest scores from Thursday, Nick Watney (5-over 75) and John Huh (4-over 74), the difference between first and last is only six shots, a small margin at East Lake’s long-and-penal layout.
Mathematically, all of the 30 players in the field have a chance to win the FedExCup, but the top-5 ranked players in the standings are in the driver’s seat. They control their own destiny, meaning that if they win the event they also win the FedExCup.
Watney, who was ranked No. 3 in FedExCup point entering the week, likely played himself out of contention in Round 1. But World No. 1 and FedExCup points leader Rory McIlroy shot 69 in Round 1 to sit only three shots back of Woods and Rose.
Scott Piercy, who snuck into the event at No. 30 in the standings, was 5-under going into No. 18 at East Lake. But he double-bogeyed the hole to fall to 3-under, in a tie for third with Bo Van Pelt, Matt Kuchar and Steve Stricker.
Phil Mickelson, who entered this week No. 4 in the standings, got up and down from a greenside bunker on the final hole to salvage a 69, putting him in a tie for 12th place with Ryan Moore, Jim Furyk, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson. Brandt Snedeker entered the Tour Championship ranked No. 5 in FedEx Cup points and shot a 2-under 68 to tie for seventh with Hunter Mahan, Adam Scott, Robert Garrigus and Zach Johnson.
Unlike most Tour events, players with be re-paired according to their Round 1 scores, meaning Justin Rose and Tiger Woods will play together in the final group.
Coverage airs tomorrow on Golf Channel from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. EST, and replays from 8:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.