NEW JERSEY (REUTERS) - Justin Thomas and Spain's Jon Rahm separated themselves from the pack late in the first round and carded rounds of eight-under 63 to share a three-shot lead on Thursday (Aug 19) at the Northern Trust at Liberty National in Jersey City, N.J.
Rahm played his final four holes at three under and finished bogey-free, while Thomas recovered from an errant tee shot on No. 18 to finish off with a string of three birdies.
They lead Harold Varner III by three shots. Behind Varner is a six-way tie at four under that includes Australian veteran Adam Scott.
Rahm, the world No. 1, and Thomas, ranked No. 5, are off to a hot start in the first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs. Only 125 players qualified for the field based on points accrued during the regular season.
Their low scores came at the end of a day marked by unpredictable winds.
"It's extremely difficult," Rahm said. "The fact that me and Justin shot a low score like that, it shows it's possible, but we both play really, really good golf. ... If the wind stays up like this, let's not expect everybody or all of us to be shooting eight under every single day because that's just not going to happen. Scores are out there. I think we just showed it. That's mainly due to the fact of the softness of the greens."
Rahm strung together three birdies twice during his round: at Nos. 6-8 and again at Nos. 15-17 and finished with eight. Despite positive Covid-19 tests knocking him out of two separate events, Rahm is looking to continue a stellar season with the US Open victory as its cornerstone.
Thomas' tee shot on the final hole hooked far left and landed up on a hill to the outside of the cart path. But he played an outstanding second shot from 188 yards away, stopping the ball three feet from the pin to set up his ninth and final birdie of the day.
He credited a switch back to a former putter he had not used since before the Scottish Open and British Open.
"I was like, why am I not using this thing?" Thomas said. "I've had a lot of success. It's not like I'm making a lot of putts with what I have. If you're putting well, any of us can go out and putt with anything. I don't know, it kind of hit me."
Varner's 66 featured seven birdies and two bogeys and was the low score on the board for much of the day. Kevin Na nearly matched the score after converting an eagle at No. 6, but he finished his round with a bogey on No. 9 and joined the tie at 67 instead.
Bryson DeChambeau had a wild afternoon, making five bogeys, two double bogeys, nine birdies and just two pars - adding up to an even-par 71. It was the fourth round the PGA Tour had on record in which a golfer made two pars or fewer and still finished at even or under par.
DeChambeau's score fluctuated all day so that he was never lower than one under par and never higher than two over.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson, the three-time winner at the Northern Trust, shot a 70. FedEx Cup points leader Collin Morikawa turned in a three-over 74.