The course was for the taking on Friday morning at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
“The setup was conservative,” said Zach Johnson, who is a favorite for one of American Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin’s picks.
In other words, it was playing easy for the morning draw with the tees moved up 10 to 20 yards on every hole (that I saw) and the guys playing the ball lift, clean and place.
I happened to stumble upon the low threesome of Johnson, Jason Day and Ryan Palmer on the No. 5 (their 13th hole) and watched them finish their combined total of 23-under for the first round at TPC Boston. Johnson and Day are the leaders in the clubhouse with Palmer and a horde of others including Ryan Moore, Hunter Mahan and Rory McIlroy trailing by just a shot.
It’s a feeding frenzy!
“Everything kind of clicked, and then obviously with Zach and Ryan playing well, we kind of fed off each other, which was good,” said Day, who has been battling illness starting with bronchitis back in January and then a mysterious sinus problem all summer.
Right away, the birdies started dropping with each of them kicking off the day with birdies on No. 10. When I showed up, Johnson drained a 20-footer and then a few minutes later, Day made a seven-footer. Even though Day pushed his drive into the hazard on No. 6, he hit a beautiful shot close to the pin, but just burned the edge with the par putt.
On the eighth green, Day casually leaned his arm against his caddie, Colin Swadden. His wife, Ellie, who is a delight, said that meant it was a sign he was feeling relaxed. Even though he had just missed a short birdie putt? Yep.
Ellie was right. He bombed his drive down the left side of the fairway. In between the 7th and 8th holes (which is a long, scenic walk through the trees, where you feel like you’re in a state park rather than a golf course), she encouraged Jason to birdie out. He almost did, making one more on No. 9 to post a 63.
Day has had a good stretch of tournaments, triggered by his T10 finish at the PGA Championship. When Saturday came around at The Barclays, he started driving the ball erratically, hitting only four fairways over the weekend by Ellie’s count, but he scrambled to finish T5.
Day, Johnson and Palmer finished their rounds just before the storm formerly known as Hurricane Earl blew in, which suspended play for an hour and a half.
More feeding quotes:
*It was one of those days kind of like when you play by yourself; if you get off to a good start it kind of breeds momentum. But we all got off to a good start, so it catapulted our day, I think. We all birdied the first all and it fed into the remainder of the day.” — Zach Johnson (63)
*”It was an unbelievable day. I’ve never been a part of a group like that in any round of golf on tour, and to go out with three guys, two guys that I like a lot, and for us to play like that and shoot 23-under par, it was awesome and fun. We all fed off each other and had a great time.” — Ryan Palmer (64)
*”Yeah, [we were feeding off each other]. Bubba shot 4-under, Jim shot 5-under, so it was a great group of guys. Everyone played well, and it was fun.” — Hunter Mahan (64)
*We had a good group. We all played well, I think 16-under as a group. Any time you can do that it gives you a lot of good feelings, a lot of good vibes as you all feed off one another, so it was a good day.” –Steve Stricker (65)
Meanwhile, as expected, the guys in the afternoon are getting doused with rain. It doesn’t look like the wind is blowing (it was very calm this morning), but I’m thinking it’s all mental — they think they got the bad side of the draw and it’s a pain to play in the pouring rain.
Tiger Woods, who tee off at 11:40am, is off to a fun start. He was four-over through 6, but birdied Nos. 17 and 18 (8 and 9) in the clutch to get it back to two-under. Through 10 holes, he’s two-over.
Looks like the journeyman’s FedEx Cup hopes might be cut short.
[Photos by Kyle Auclair/insidetheropes.com]