NORTON, United States: Dustin Johnson continued his hot streak Friday, firing an opening round five-under 66 at the Dell Technologies Championship for the one-stroke lead over the star-studded PGA Tour playoff field.
World number one Johnson picked up where he left off last week when he won the Northern Trust event, making another roaring start in the second leg of the FedExCup Playoffs.
“When you win, you’re playing well, so it gives you a lot of confidence,” said Johnson. “For me, that was one thing that was probably lacking a little bit the last few months.
“I wasn’t seeing the shots that I wanted to see. I wasn’t hitting them consistently. So the confidence was just down a little bit.
“But you know, after last week, obviously I’ve got a lot of confidence now.”
The 33-year-old American is in good company at the top of the leaderboard as Aussie Marc Leishman, American Kyle Stanley, Jon Rahm of Spain and reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia share second after shooting 67s.
Johnson birdied the 10th hole to begin his opening round in cool windy conditions at the TPC Boston. He converted a putt from five feet for eagle at No. 18 to make the turn at four-under.
Johnson won last week’s playoff opening tournament, snapping a five month winless drought which was exacerbated by a back injury. He is vying for his fifth win of the year, which would break a tie with PGA champion Justin Thomas for most on the US Tour this season.
Kevin Na, of the US, and Sweden’s Jonas Blixt are part of a group of a half dozen golfers at 68. Three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson, South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen and 2014 US Open runner-up Rickie Fowler are three shots off the lead after posting two-under 69s.
Garcia collected five birdies on the front nine and finished with six against two bogeys before scrambling for par on his final hole.
“I was very happy to see that I hit a lot of good shots, a lot of good putts,” Garcia said. “I made some nice putts here and there early on. And the ones that I didn’t make, they looked like they were going to go in. So a lot of positives.”
Rahm notched four birdies on his final five holes to join the four-under group.
Leishman, of Warrnambool, Victoria, recorded his second-best opening round on this season. He shot a 66 at Quicken Loans National.
Defending champion Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, shot a one-over 72 and is tied for 42nd with world number two Jordan Spieth.
McIlroy won here last year and in 2012 to become one of just two players, along with Fiji’s Vijay Singh (2004, 2008) to win this event more than once.
Open Championship winner Spieth, who lost to Johnson in a sudden-death playoff Sunday in New York, didn’t make a birdie until his 13th hole.
The postseason field is now down to the top 100 players this week. The top 70 players on the FedExCup points list after the Dell advance to the BMW Championship in Lake Forest, Illinois. — AFP