(Reuters) – The world’s leading two players Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm were tied atop the leaderboard at 13-under par after the first round of the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta on Friday.
As top seed in the season-long points standings, Johnson started at 10-under par with a two-shot lead thanks to the staggered scoring system and mixed five birdies with two bogeys to card a three-under 67 at East Lake.
The American’s four-and-a-half foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th would have given him the outright lead but the ball lipped out and he was forced to settle for par.
“My game is in good shape,” Johnson said.
“Got a lot of confidence in it and swinging well. So yeah, I’m looking forward to the rest of the week.”
The long-hitting Johnson, runner-up to Spaniard Rahm last weekend after winning the playoff opener the previous week, is competing in the Tour Championship for a 12th consecutive season, the longest active streak on the PGA Tour.
Rahm, who was paired with Johnson, nearly holed out from the bunker on 18 but his ball also found the lip of the cup and he was forced to settle for par to cap a round of five-under 65.
Former FedExCup champion Justin Thomas, who started in third place three shots back, got up and down for birdie on 18 to shoot a four-under 66, two shots off the lead at 11 under.
New father Rory McIlroy, who started the day in 12th at three under, got his title defence off to a flying start with a six-under 64 that included three consecutive birdies at the end.
“I was coming in here with no expectations,” said Northern Irishman McIlroy, who welcomed a baby girl on Monday.
“I didn’t touch a club for four days in between tournaments. Coming in here golf was the furthest thing from my mind and sometimes that’s a good thing. You get to decompress and get away from it.”
The winner from this week’s elite 30-player field will be crowned FedExCup champion and take home $15 million.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles and Frank Pingue in Toronto; editing by Ian Chadband and Ken Ferris)