Jamie Lovemark was a junior golf star in Southern California and won the 2007 NCAA Championship while at USC, but what was expected to be a successful pro career has been stifled by back injuries.
The 30-year-old Lovemark, from Rancho Santa Fe, has yet to win on the PGA Tour but got off to a fine start by shooting 5-under-par 66 in The Northern Trust to open the FedEx Cup playoffs and is tied for the lead with Kevin Tway, Sean O’Hair and Vaughn Taylor at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J.
“It was a really great start to birdie the first three holes,” said Lovemark, whose only two pro victories came on the Web.com Tour. “It’s a nice stretch to start and then the course gets really tough. I lost it a bit in the middle, but then found some good stuff coming in on the last six or seven holes.
“The rough is really difficult. I only reached the green once when I got in there, so it will be important this week to keep it in the fairway. But I got off to a good start and I hope it carries over to the rest of the week.”
Lovemark, who lost playoffs in the 2009 Frys.com Open and the 2016 Zurich Classic of New Orleans, added three birdies on back nine before missing a seven-foot putt to make his only bogey on the last hole.
Tway birdied three of the first four holes to kick-start his 66, which Taylor matched with birdies on five of the last six holes, while O’Hair sank a six-foot eagle putt on the third hole and added four birdies to gain his share of the top spot.
Top-ranked Dustin Johnson, the defending champion, overcame a triple-bogey 8 on the 17th hole with seven birdies to post a 67 and is a huge tie for fifth that includes second-ranked Brooks Koepka, Beau Hossler of Mission Viejo, Kevin Na of Diamond Bar, Tommy Fleetwood of England, Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Andrew Putnam of Pepperdine, Paul Casey of England, Scott Piercy, Alex Cejka of Germany, Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela, Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain and Danny Lee of New Zealand.
Phil Mickelson shot 68 and is tied for 18th, third-ranked Justin Thomas is tied for 27th at 69, eighth-ranked Jordan Spieth totaled 70 and is tied for 49th, and Tiger Woods shot 71 and is in a tie for 60th that includes 10th-ranked Jason Day of Australia.
Fourth-ranked Justin Rose of England carded a 72 and is in a tie for 80th that includes sixth-ranked Francesco Molinari of Italy, while fifth-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain is tied for 108th at 75.
Seventh-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland decided to pass on the playoff opener, seventh-ranked Rickie Fowler is not playing because of an oblique injury, and Brandt Snedeker, who won the Wyndham Championship last week, withdrew because of back spasms.
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