ATLANTA • Jordan Spieth can afford to ignore the multitude of arithmetical options when calculating who will be the FedExCup winner.
His equation is simple: win the US$8.75 million (S$11.8 million) Tour Championship tomorrow and he will also leave Atlanta with the US$10 million bonus pot for the second time in his career.
It is about as straightforward as this complex play-off golf series ever gets. The Cup's points leader made a solid start on Thursday with this dual target in mind.
His opening round of three-under 67 in the season-ender was produced against the backdrop of the American not looking particularly at ease with any aspect of his game.
This was classic Spieth; he can score well in all scenarios. He is three behind the 18-hole lead.
The 24-year-old was two under through eight holes, but went eight holes without a birdie before making a 14-footer at No. 16.
Seeding of Tour Championship debutant Kyle Stanley in the 30-man field at Atlanta, where 20 of them broke par in the opening round.
"I get done and look back and I'm surprised we're at three under," said The Open champion.
"Things were off at different times and things were certainly on at different times that pieced this round together and kind of helped what was an interesting day to be still in this golf tournament."
His playing partner, and the recent US PGA Championship winner, Justin Thomas, signed for the same score as his childhood friend, while Dustin Johnson, the world No. 1, shot a 68.
Australia's world No. 6 Jason Day dropped a stroke at the 18th hole en route to a 69.
The 24-year-old Thomas, who has won five times this year, had birdies on four of six holes beginning at the par-four No. 7 and then capped his round with a birdie on the 18th holes, his sixth of the day.
The pacesetter was Kyle Stanley, who scored 64 for a two-shot lead over four players. For the 29-year-old to claim the FedExCup, he needs to maintain such form and hope Spieth has problems.
The American is playing in the Tour Championship for the first time and was seeded No. 22 in the 30-man field.
He charged out of the gate with four straight birdies starting at No. 3 and made the turn in 32. He had three birdies on the back nine for another 32. His only mishap came on the eighth hole, where he posted a bogey.
"Today it was nice to get off to a pretty fast start, making four birdies in a row, and was able to make a few on the back nine," he said. "Just tried to not complicate things, keep the ball in front of me and maybe make a few putts."
Stanley's closest challengers for now are Brooks Koepka, Paul Casey, Webb Simpson and Daniel Berger at 66.
Sergio Garcia, the Masters champion, slipped to a 73 that proved two strokes better than Hideki Matsuyama.
The Japanese does not yet look to have recovered from falling short when Thomas won at Quail Hollow.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Day 3: StarHub Ch204, tomorrow, 12.30am