This is the second year of the staggered start in Round 1 of the Tour Championship, and it’s still going to take some getting used to. Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm co-lead after the first round at 13 under, but they didn’t shoot 57s to earn that score. Johnson started at 10 under and shot a 67, while Rahm started at 8 under and shot a 65.
The top two moved forward in Round 1, which is the opposite of what happened last year when Rory McIlroy jumped the top three on the leaderboard after a big first round. McIlroy played well again in Round 1 this year, but he has a lot of work to do over the next three days in order to get in contention for the weekend.
Let’s look at how Round 1 played out at East Lake Golf Club and what to expect going into the rest of the 2020 Tour Championship.
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T1. Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson (-13): D.J. hit it slightly better than Rahm, but Rahm figured out a way to score and played his last 15 holes in 5 under. It would be fitting if these two battled this weekend at this tournament after their war at the end at Olympia Fields last weekend. Also, if this duo leads a foursome — that also includes Justin Thomas and McIlroy — into duking it out all weekend on this course for $15 million, whoa buddy, that would be a pretty sweet ending to a weird year.
3. Justin Thomas (-11): J.T. finished first in the field from tee to green but 22nd (in a field of 30) with his putter. That’s been the issue for him of late, but broadly speaking, he’s a great putter. I trust that he’ll figure it out at some point, and if it’s this weekend, he’ll win.
4. Rory McIlroy (-9) : Everybody saw it coming from a mile away. How good is a freed-up Rory after weeks of having his mind on his soon-to-be-born daughter? Apparently, he’s 64 in Round 1 at East Lake good. McIlroy birdied his last three holes and finished second to J.T. in strokes gained tee to green. He’s going to be problematic given where he’s at mentally and his history on this course (two wins in the last four years).
“You know, it just shows you golf is such a mental game, and if you come in with low expectations, that’s always how I’ve played well,” said McIlroy. “Whether I don’t feel like my game is in a good place or I’m not the favorite coming into a tournament, all that stuff, I feel like that’s when I usually play my best and I can play with a bit of freedom, and that’s what I did today.”
5. Abraham Ancer (-7): Awesome day for Ancer to cap what has been a great season. He eagled the last hole to tie McIlroy with a 64, which stood as the round of the day. Ancer hit the ball tremendously over the first 18 holes, and he sounds undeterred by the fact that he started nine down to D.J.
“I just picture myself like if this was a five-day event and I shot 1-under yesterday,” said Ancer. “I just have to make some ground. I didn’t think it was that weird. I just look at the leaderboard if I need to see where I’m…