Xander Schauffele wasn’t fazed by starting the Tour Championship six strokes back under the new format of the FedEx Cup’s final event.
The 24-year-old Schauffele (pictured), from La Jolla and San Diego State, posted a bogey-free, 6-under-par 64 and is tied for the lead with Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka after one round at East Lake Golf Club www.eastlakegolfclub.com in Atlanta.
“I just tried to get (the six shots) back as quickly as I could,” said Schauffele, who won the Tour Championship at East Lake two years ago. “I kept my head down early, avoided all the trouble and the first time I looked at the leaderboard, I saw I was tied for the lead.
“Anywhere pros win, we usually come back and play well. That’s why you see repeat winners. I’m not super satisfied with my round because I missed a birdie putt on the last hole, so that will keep me a little ticked off to come back firing tomorrow.”
Schauffele, who was 4-under to start the tournament in the new format, rolled in three birdie putts on each nine.
Thomas, who started the day at 10-under thanks to winning the BMW Championship last week to take the lead in the FedEx Cup point standings, struggled with his ball-stroking but sank a two-foot birdie putt on the last hole to salvage a 70, while Koepka birdied three of the last four holes for a 67.
“It was a little frustrating because I was so close on a lot of shots, but the difference between being in the fairway or barely in the rough is so huge,” said Thomas, the 2017 FedEx Cup champion. “I hit a few bad shots and missed some putts, so I’m happy to be tied for the lead.
“I missed two short putts, but I played some good golf on the last five holes, so I think I’ll be fine.”
Said Koepka, who started at 7-under: “It’s definitely interesting with this format and it’s hard not to look at the leaderboard to see where you stand. I’ve found something in my swing and I was pleased with the way I hit it. These are some of the best greens we play all year and it was great to finish with a (12-foot) birdie to tie for the lead.”
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, the 2016 FedEx Cup champion, who started at 5-under, shot 66 and is one back in solo fourth, while Matt Kuchar (-4), also totaled 66 and is two behind in a tie for fifth with Patrick Cantlay (8-under) of Los Alamitos and UCLA, who carded a 70.
Hideki Matsuyama of Japan (3-under) also had a 66 and is one more down in seventh, while Paul Casey of England (2-under) also finished at 66 and is four strokes back in a tie for eighth with Jon Rahm of Spain (4-under), who wound up at 68, and Patrick Reed (even par), who came in at 70.
U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland (3-under) is tied for 11th at 68, defending FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose of England (2-under) shot 68 and is tied for 13th, and 2012 FedEx Cup winner Brandt Snedeker (even par) is tied for 28th in the 30-man field at 73.
For complete results, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html