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Patrick Cantlay starts with lead and keeps distance in the first round of the tour championship

ATLANTA – Patrick Cantlay reached his goal in the first round of the tour championship on Thursday, and it has nothing to do with the score on his card or the size of his lead.

As the best seed in the FedEx Cup, he started with a 2-stroke lead Tony Finau before he even hit a shot. He ended the hot, windy day at East Lake at 3-under 67 with a 2-stroke lead Jon Rahm.

It was all about playing another tournament.

“I think it’s easy to get in front of you and easily abandon your game plan because you feel like you’re ahead,” Cantlay said. “And it’s just not helpful, so I’m not going to do it.”

Only four players had a better score, so it was a good day, regardless of the format in which players can start at different points below track figure, depending on their FedEx Cup positions.

Rahm started by battling for birdie, stopping the round from getting away with a few key points – one for bogey, one for par – at the turn and running four birdies down his last seven holes for a 65 .

Cantlay, who started at 10 under par, moves to 13 under.

Five shots were fired Bryson DeChambeau and Harris Engels, and only one of them managed to pick up some ground on Cantlay while delivering one of the more exciting moments.

It would be the Englishman, who was heading in the wrong direction when he stepped on the par-3 15th over water to the tea — the second hardest hole at East Lake — smashing a 5-iron 224-yard breaker and watching it falls. for a hole-in-one, the first one since the tour championships first came to East Lake in 1998.

He followed with two more birdies for a 66, one better than Cantlay on the day, a little closer than when English started.

DeChambeau fired his last three holes to save a 69. He started 3 strokes behind and is now 5 strokes behind, without any reports of restless behavior outside the ropes.

The subject of vocation was – who else? – English.

One fan who followed him kept referring to him by a different name – Hudson Swafford – which is understandable. English and Swafford were teammates in Georgia, have similar constructions, look a bit the same. They are even tied at driving distance (81st) on the PGA Tour.

“He thought I was Hudson like half the people here,” Engels said. “I think he drank some beers. He just could not know from 50 meters who I am.”

Finau meanwhile had a 72 and went back from 2 shots behind to 7.

This is the third year of the format, and Cantlay does not know how the bottom half feels. He was the number 2 seed in 2019 when it started, the number 1 seed last year. The first time it did not go well. He had one of his worst weeks of the year, which cost him nearly $ 2 million with how far he fell.

Justin Thomas was the no. 1 and 3 seeds the previous two times. Now he is at number 6, which means he started 6 strokes from the lead. It was a new experience.

He noticed he was already in 10th place when he pulled away, based on early points, and that was a bit shocking. Worse was to be 1 ahead on the top nine. In the first place with 6 shots behind, his hope could have ended early.

But he shot 31 on the back nine, five birdies and one impressive par save on the 14th, and a 67. He is still 6 behind. It could have been worse.

“If you start at the back like that, unfortunately you just do not have the luxury of shooting a 1 or 2 over the first round,” Thomas said. “And I saved a good round out there and I feel like I can easily get out there and shoot 6 or 7 under one of the next three days. And hopefully I do.”

Rahm started 4 back and, just like Cantlay, chose not to pay attention to anything other than the next shot, even if the good start seemed like it could get away from him. He took bogey from left to left at number 7, came up and down from behind the eighth green for bogey and saved par from a bunker on par-3 ninth.

It was just as important as some of his birds. Now he’s 2 behind Cantlay with 54 holes left, and strange as it may seem at the beginning, it now feels like a regular tournament.

“It’s very easy to determine how far back you started. I don’t think I really thought about it. I was just trying to make a score,” Rahm said. “My job is to get the best hold I can every time, and that’s all I can control.”

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