The PGA Tour returned to action on Thursday in Chicago, and many of the same names who have dominated all season surfaced at the top of the BMW Championship leaderboard. Brandt Snedeker rode a streak of seven straight birdies to an opening round 63, taking the lead at 8-under over Zach Johnson, Tiger Woods and other 2013 mainstays.
Snedeker has long been heralded as one of the best putters in the world, but he's put the complete game together over the past two years. He's already the defending FedExCup champion, cashing that career-defining $10 million check in Atlanta last fall. That form carried over this year, when he was the best player in the world through the first two months of the season before adding a late summer victory in Canada. He got hot with the putter again on Thursday, rolling in birdie after birdie on his opening nine to eventually get to 8-under. It was a flawless bogey-free round and if he keeps it up, he'll cruise back into East Lake this year No. 1 in the FEC standings.
Woods is also right there on the first page of the leaderboard, tied for third. He had a frustrating day, though, indicating after the round that he was not pleased with his 5-under 66. That's because he missed multiple putts from inside five feet and played the par-5s to a disappointing even-par, leaving several shots and a potential round in the low 60s out on the course.
Still, it was an improvement over Woods' middling form at the Deutsche Bank, and despite his frustrations, he's right there on a course he was otherwise unfamiliar earlier this week. He began only 14 FEC points back of No. 1 Henrik Stenson, so he's also a candidate to jump back into the top spot of the standings for the season's final playoff event.
Joining Snedeker and Woods inside the top 10 are fellow world-class players Johnson, Adam Scott, Steve Stricker, Nick Watney, and Ryan Moore. Scott is playing alongside Tiger again this week, and he had his broomstick putter rolling in the windy conditions at Conway Farms. He's 4-under, while Stricker is 5-under.
Rory McIlroy, the defending champ at this event, started the week outside the top 30 and in danger of missing out on the TOUR Championship. Rory needed to go low early to move up at least 11 spots and sneak into the field in Atlanta, but instead he went the opposite direction with a miserable 7-over round of 78. That's a lot of ground to make up, even over 54 holes, so Rory's woeful 2013 season could be coming to an end here in Chicago. Joining Rory at the bottom of the board are Lee Westwood, Rickie Fowler, and Matt Kuchar -- some top-20 players who could not figure it out at Conway Farms. Here are the full first-round results from the limited 70-man field in Chicago:
|Place||Player||Score||Current FedExCup Place||Projected FedExCup Place|
|T29||Brendon de Jonge||E||26||29|
|T29||Charles Howell III||E||31||33|