Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Leishman grabs first-round lead at PGA's BMW Championship

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Marc Leishman left his clubs in his garage during his week break from the FedEx Cup playoff and it didn't change anything. He made 10 birdies in the opening round of the BMW Championship for 9-under 62 and a two-shot lead.

Jason Day made the biggest change of his career and had 64, his best start in 16 months.

The race to the FedEx Cup finale got off to a blistering start Thursday at Conway Farms, and no one could top Leishman. The Australian finished third at the TPC Boston two weeks ago, did nothing last week except practice putting in the room above his garage, then ran off seven birdies in a nine-hole stretch in the middle of his round and matched his best score on the PGA Tour.

"When you play golf and all you're thinking about his making birdies, it's a lot easier than trying to not make bogeys," Leishman said.

Day made five birdies on the back nine to atone for a sluggish start in a tournament where his expectations were up in the air. He decided last week that Colin Swatton, the most meaningful figure in his golf career, would no longer caddie for at least the rest of the year. Day instead used an old roommate from his school days in Australia, Luke Reardon. If that wasn't enough, he also changed putters.

That might not have been nearly as significant as the good vibes from a six-shot victory at Conway Farms two years ago. Whatever the case, he had no complaints about his lowest score since 63 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May, and his best opening round since 63 at the Players Championship a year ago, which was the last tournament he won.

"A good step in the right direction, especially with having Luke on the bag," Day said. "Obviously, not having Colin on the bag is something different, and I just didn't know how I was going to play. I think Luke did a fantastic job out there."

Charley Hoffman, picked for the Presidents Cup a week ago, birdied his last two holes for 64. Jamie Lovemark also had 64 with a little more style, drilling a fairway metal over the creek to 8 feet for eagle on the par-5 18th.

Jordan Spieth, a runnerup in the past two FedEx Cup playoff events to take over the No. 1 spot in the standings, turned a wild tee shot into a birdie on the opening hole, added a 30-foot birdie from off the green at No. 5 and settled down the rest of the way for a bogey-free 65. Also at 65 was Rickie Flower.

The top 30 in the FedEx Cup after this week make it to the Tour Championship at East Lake for a mathematical shot at the $10 million bonus, with odds significantly higher depending on the position in the standings. The top five players — Spieth, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson already are assured that position — would only have to win at East Lake to claim the sport's richest prize.

LPGA: Rain and strong winds forced play to be scrapped at the Evian Championship, the final women's major of the season that will start afresh today as a 54-hole event in Evian-Les-Bains, France. A restart was good news for Ai Miyazato, the former world No. 1 from Japan playing her final event before retiring. The 2009 and 2011 Evian champion was 3 over through six holes.

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