The Associated Press
OLD WESTBURY, N.Y.–Golf hasn’t felt this easy to Dustin Johnson since he was making it hard for anyone to beat him.
Coming off a week in the Bahamas and switching back to his old putter to rely more on feel, Johnson ran off three birdies over his last six holes at Glen Oaks Club and finished with a five-under 65 to trail Russell Henley by one shot after the opening round of The Northern Trust.
Johnson missed only two fairways and two greens yesterday afternoon, and he finished with a shot up the hill to four feet for one last birdie that gave him his lowest round since he won at Riviera in February to rise to No. 1 in the world.
“Today was much easier than it has been in the past,” Johnson said.
“I’ve been saying it’s close and I’ve seen signs of it,” he noted.
“But today was the first day where I felt like all day I was really in control of the swing.”
The first of four FedEx Cup playoff events moved this year to Glen Oaks–a course no one in the field knows particularly well.
Henley brought a conservative strategy of aiming for the safe part of the green and he converted eight birdies.
Seven of them were from 12 feet or closer–a testament to how well he was playing.
He also chipped in from 80 feet.
Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont. was the low Canadian yesterday after shooting even-par 70.
Scott Brown, Camilo Villegas, and Chris Kirk were at 66, and it was an important start for Villegas and Kirk.
The top 100 in the FedEx Cup after this week advance to the second playoff event at the TPC Boston.
Kirk is at No. 97 while Villegas is one spot behind.
It was even better for a few players who opened with a 67 yesterday, such as Bubba Watson (No. 113), Martin Flores (No. 118), and Harold Varner III (No. 123).
Flores only got into the top 125 by finishing with an ace, a par, and a birdie at the Wyndham Championship last week.
PGA champion Justin Thomas, still sluggish from a busy week of trying to deal with his new status as major champion, wasn’t expecting much out of his game and dropped two shots early before he rallied for a 68 yesterday.
British Open champ Jordan Spieth had a 69 while Hideki Matsuyama, the No. 1 seed going into the PGA Tour’s version of the post-season, didn’t make a birdie and opened with a 74.
Rory McIlroy made three bogeys on the back nine and shot 73.