Justin Thomas loses cushion, shares lead in Tour Championship

Xander Schauffele was six shots behind before he ever hit a shot Thursday in the new scoring format for the Tour Championship. His goal was to keep his head down, play good golf and see where he stood to par at the end of two days.

The TV cameras following his every move on the back nine at East Lake in Atlanta were the first hint it was going well. A leaderboard on the 18th green confirmed it.

“I saw I was in first,” he said. “Happy with the day.”

Schauffele didn’t come seriously close to a bogey in a 6-under-par 64 that was the best score of the opening round by two shots. It was worth only a share of the lead with Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka in a Tour Championship in which players started with better scores to par than others depending on their place in the FedEx Cup standings.

Thomas, who started at 10-under and a two-shot lead as the No. 1 seed, still led despite having trouble finding the fairway. That was the least of his problems on the back nine. He hit pitching wedge into the water for double-bogey and missed two 3-foot putts for a 70.

Instead of being six shots behind Schauffele, who started at 4-under as the No. 8 seed, Thomas was tied for the lead. Koepka, the No. 3 seed who started three shots behind, birdied three of his last four holes for a 67 to join them at 10-under.

“It’s weird on Thursday to be three back after a couple of holes,” Koepka said of the start. “It’s nice to close that gap on Day 1.”

Rory McIlroy, five shots behind at the start as the No. 5 seed, had a 66 and was one shot behind at 9-under going into the second round.

Over the next three days, it should look and feel like a normal tournament.

The score to par is all that matters in deciding who wins the FedEx Cup and the $15 million prize. The top five players were separated by five shots at the start, and that number was at 12 players by the end of the day.

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

“After five holes, I wanted to see scores. I never usually care about what’s going on after five holes,” said Casey, who shot 66. He started eight shots behind as the No. 16 seed and cut that margin in half after one round.

LPGA Tour: Annie Park shot a 7-under 65 to take a one-stroke lead in the opening round of the CP Women’s Open in Aurora, Ontario. Canadians Brooke Henderson, the defending champion, and Anne-Catherine Tanguay were one shot back, along with top-ranked Jin Young Ko, Pajaree Anannarukarn and Nicole Broch Larsen.

European Tour: Wade Ormsby holed a 4-iron from 196 yards for eagle on his way to shooting a bogey-free, 8-under 62 at the Scandinavian Invitational in Gothenburg, Sweden, giving him the first-round lead.

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Justin-Thomas-loses-cushion-shares-lead-in-Tour-14372211.php.

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