Thomas loses cushion, shares lead in Tour Championship

ATLANTA (AP) — Xander Schauffele was six pictures behind earlier than he ever hit a shot Thursday within the new scoring format for the Tour Championship. His objective was to maintain his head down, play good golf and see the place he stood to par on the finish of two days.

The TV cameras following his each transfer on the again 9 at East Lake have been the primary trace it was going effectively.

A leaderboard on the 18th inexperienced confirmed it.

”I noticed I used to be in first,” he mentioned. ”Pleased with the day.”

Schauffele did not come significantly near a bogey in a 6-under 64 that was the most effective rating of the opening spherical by two pictures. It was solely value a share of the lead with Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka in a Tour Championship the place gamers began with higher scores to par than others relying on their place within the FedEx Cup.

Thomas, who began at 10-under par and a two-shot lead because the No. 1 seed, nonetheless led regardless of having bother discovering the green. That was the least of his issues on the again 9. He hit pitching wedge into the water for double bogey and missed a pair of 3-foot putts for a 70.

As an alternative of being six pictures behind Schauffele, who began at four below because the No. eight seed, Thomas was tied for the lead. Koepka, the No. Three seed who began three pictures behind, birdied three of his final 4 holes for a 67 to affix them at 10 below.

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”It is bizarre on Thursday to be three again after a few holes,” Koepka mentioned of the beginning. ”It is good to shut that hole on Day 1.”

Rory McIlroy, 5 pictures behind in the beginning because the No. 5 seed, had a 66 and was one shot behind at 9 below going into the second spherical.

Over the following three days, it ought to appear and feel like a standard event.

The rating to par is all that issues in deciding who wins the FedEx Cup and the $15 million prize. And after at some point, it was setting as much as be a shootout. The highest 5 gamers have been separated by 5 pictures in the beginning, and that quantity was at 12 gamers by the top of the day.

That included Paul Casey, who felt a brand new form of anticipation for a Thursday.

”After 5 holes, I wished to see scores. I by no means normally care about what is going on on after 5 holes,” mentioned Paul Casey, who shot 66. He began eight pictures behind because the No. 16 seed and lower that margin in half after one spherical.

The priority was that Thomas, who gained final week at Medinah, may publish one other low rating and construct an enormous lead.

It did not work out that method.

”We have a golf occasion now,” Casey mentioned. ”That is form of cool. Appears prefer it’s working.”

There have been a number of different moments that indicated this Thursday was completely different from all others in golf.

Thomas made the flip at 1 below, and because the strolling scorer introduced the signal throughout the street and onto the 10th tee, one followers was shocked to see him at 11 below till he mentioned, ”That is proper – he began at 10 below.”

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Schauffele was at 10 below when he approached the 18th inexperienced to face a 6-foot birdie putt.

”I had a putt for 59 on the final gap,” he mentioned with a smile. ”That is what (Matt) Kuchar instructed me. I checked out him the identical method. Acquired it.”

Patrick Cantlay, the No. 2 seed who started two pictures behind, shared the lead briefly till two bogeys over the past 5 holes for a 70. It wasn’t a superb day, but he nonetheless was solely two pictures behind.

Thomas missed a 3-foot par putt on No. 12. On the par-3 15th, which performed 60 yards shorter than standard, his wedge was proper all the way in which and located the water. And on the 17th, he hit wedge to three ft solely to see his birdie putt spin 270 levels round and out of the cup.

He salvaged the day with a superb drive – solely his sixth fairway of the spherical – that arrange a two-putt birdie.

”It is wonderful,” Thomas mentioned. ”I am tied for the lead.”

Schauffele gained the Tour Championship two years in the past in a state of affairs that led to this transformation in format. FedEx Cup factors accrued throughout the common season and quadrupled within the postseason have been reset to offer everybody an opportunity. The highest 5 gamers solely needed to win the event to seize the FedEx Cup, and odds of successful the bonus have been increased because the place within the standings received decrease.

Schauffele, a rookie in 2017, was the No. 26 seed when he gained the event. The FedEx Cup went to Thomas, who was the No. 2 seed and completed one shot behind.

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There have been two winners that day and blended feelings. Thomas had by no means been so irritated successful $10 million.

Now, the reward for a superb season and two playoff occasions is a decrease rating below par to start out the Tour Championship, and the bottom rating to par on the finish of the week wins $15 million.

”I feel everybody wanted assist from J.T.,” mentioned Schauffele, a phrase normally solely heard going into the ultimate spherical, not on a Thursday. ”If J.T. went out and shot a pair of 65s, I do not assume the tour could be very pleased and I do not assume the remainder of the sector could be pleased.

”Nevertheless it seems to be a superb event to this point.”

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