Spain’s second-ranked Jon Rahm fired a five-under par 65 to match world primary Dustin Johnson for the lead after Friday’s opening spherical of the US PGA Tour Championship.
Rahm managed to seek out solely three of 14 fairways at East Lake however reached 14 of 18 greens in regulation to equal Johnson at 13-under after 18 holes in a 30-man season-ending showdown in Atlanta for a $15 million playoff prize.
“I type of survived the primary six or seven holes, took it on the again 9 and performed a extremely strong spherical of golf,” Rahm stated.
“My driving may use just a little enhancing. It was just a bit bit of each which approach. I used to be just a little hesitant off the tee and that is what I might like to alter.”
Johnson, who shot 67, started on 10-under by advantage of his season factors lead. Rahm was subsequent on Eight-under with third-ranked American Justin Thomas on 7-under and different rivals beginning as much as 10 strokes adrift within the staggered begin system.
“I am happy with the way in which I performed,” Johnson stated. “It is a first rate rating. I must hold doing what I am doing and giving myself some seems.”
Thomas, the 2017 playoff champion, had three birdies in his first 4 holes on the way in which to a 66 to face third on 11-under, two strokes forward of world quantity 4 Rory McIlroy, who shot 64 to leap into competition.
New dad McIlroy, who started seven behind Johnson, is chasing his third US PGA playoff crown in 5 seasons and nonetheless pondering of daughter Poppy.
“I used to be like, ‘OK, there is a feeding developing.’ It is pure — between photographs you consider different issues,” McIlroy stated.
“It is good to have this little 4 or 5 hours to myself. I performed rather well, pretty much as good as I’ve in a very long time and that was very encouraging.”
Final-pair companions Rahm and Johnson continued their duel from final week’s BMW Championship, when Johnson sank an extended putt on the 72nd inexperienced to drive additional holes and Rahm made a 66-footer for birdie to seize the playoff.
“It was enjoyable taking part in on the market with Jon,” Johnson stated. “Fairly strong.”
Johnson sank a six-foot birdie putt on the second and dropped his strategy inches from the cup on the par-5 sixth for a tap-in birdie to succeed in 12-under. However he made bogey on the eighth and par-Three ninth after lacking the golf green and 10-foot par putts.
“Have to hit it just a little straighter,” Johnson stated. “I did not hit sufficient fairways… if you happen to hit it within the fairways, there’s not a gap you’ll be able to’t get after.”
Rahm made a 19-foot birdie putt on the second, took bogey at three, then dropped his strategy inches from the cup to arrange a birdie at six.
“It was arduous the primary 4 or 5 holes, not uncomfortable however simply uncertain of the dynamics of every thing,” Rahm stated. “After that I used to be just a little bit extra comfy.”
Johnson and Rahm every birdied the 12th, 13th and par-Three 15th, the world’s top-ranked gamers bringing out one of the best in one another.
After Rahm made a 29-foot birdie putt at 12, Johnson adopted him from 27 toes. At 13, Rahm sank a 12-footer for birdie and Johnson topped him from 10 toes.
On the par-Three 15th, Rahm sank a 23-foot birdie putt and Johnson made a 16-footer behind him.
Rahm adopted with a 16-foot birdie putt at 16 after Johnson missed from 25 toes, leaving them each at 13-under.
“I putted in addition to I ever have on Bermuda greens in my life,” Rahm stated.
On the par-5 18th, Johnson blasted out of a greenside bunker to Four 1/2 toes however lipped out on his birdie putt whereas Rahm lipped out on his bunker bid for birdie and settled for a tap-in par.
4-time main winner McIlroy, who celebrated Poppy’s beginning Monday, went 4 days with out touching a membership.
“Golf was the furthest factor from my thoughts the primary few days this week,” stated McIlroy. “That meant I may come right here and considerably deal with what I am alleged to do.”
Golf supplied McIlroy an escape into his typical challenges.
“It is type of a sanctuary,” he stated. “Nice begin. I performed some good golf.”
McIlroy has not managed a top-10 end because the US PGA Tour returned from a three-month COVID-19 shutdown in June, impending fatherhood and spectator-less occasions taking a toll.
“It was an ideal storm,” he stated. “I’ve seen indicators my recreation is getting higher. I used to be coming in with no expectations… I am pleased to start out the way in which I’ve.”
Scores after Friday’s first spherical of the US PGA Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta, Georgia (USA except famous, par 70, gamers started even to 10-under based mostly on season factors):
Dustin Johnson 67, Jon Rahm (ESP) 65
Justin Thomas 66
Rory McIlroy (NIR) 64
Abraham Ancer (MEX) 64
Xander Schauffele 67, Brendon Todd 67, Im Sung-jae (KOR) 68, Webb Simpson 70
Marc Leishman (AUS) 66, Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 67, Lanto Griffin 67, Daniel Berger 69
Tony Finau 68, Hideki Matsuyama (JPN) 70, Harris English 70, Collin Morikawa 71
Cameron Champ 68, Cameron Smith (AUS) 68, Kevin Na 69, Sebastian Munoz (COL) 71, Patrick Reed 71, Bryson DeChambeau 72
Viktor Hovland (NOR) 69, Scottie Scheffler 71
Billy Horschel 70, Mackenzie Hughes (CAN) 70, Joaquin Niemann (CHI) 72
Ryan Palmer 72, Kevin Kisner 72