New York - Russell Henley got off to a quick start in the PGA Tour FedEx Cup playoffs on Thursday, firing a six-under 64 to lead the
Northern Trust by one stroke from top-ranked Dustin Johnson.
Johnson, whose early-season surge saw him win the Genesis
Open in Los Angeles and two World Golf Championship titles to reach number one
in the world before injury forced him out of the Masters in April, notched his
lowest round since February.
He shook off an early bogey to post four of his six birdies
on the back nine en route to his five-under 65.
Henley admitted he "didn't really know what to
expect" in his first competitive round on the Glen Oaks Club course in Old
Westbury, New York.
But he benefitted from benign early conditions to make eight
That included a chip-in at the fifth hole, but mostly relied
on his determination to keep the ball in play.
"I just tried to hit the fairway, make sure I hit the
green when I was in the fairway, and the greens are great and I rolled in a
couple of putts," he said.
Henley, who won the Houston Open in April, thrived in the
morning as stars including Hideki Matsuyama and Rory McIlroy struggled.
Colombian Camilo Villegas and Americans Scott Brown and
Chris Kirk shared third on 64.
Henley's showing was a turnaround from his last two starts,
in which he finished tied for 66th and 71st.
"My attitude was just bad," he said of those
outings, but the start of the playoffs, the four-tournament series capped by
next month's Tour Championship, has him feeling energized.
He came into the post-season 19th in the standings and on
course to reach the season finale - where a $10 million bonus is on offer to
the series points winner - for the second time.
Matsuyama came in atop the standings, but had four bogeys in
his last six holes in a four-over 74.
McIlroy, the defending FedEx Cup champion whose season has
been hampered by injury carded a 73, unable to build any momentum in his bid to
gain a first victory of the year.
Major winners Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen were among
half a dozen players sharing sixth on 67.
Justin Thomas, who won his first major title at the PGA
Championship and came into the tournament second in the playoff standings, was
in another big group on 68 while British Open champion Jordan Spieth - third in
the standings - got off to a solid start with a one-under par 69.
Leading first-round scores on Thursday in the Northern Trust, first event of the US PGA Tour FedEx Cup playoffs (USA unless noted):
64 - Russell Henley
65 - Dustin Johnson
66 - Scott Brown, Camilo Villegas (COL), Chris Kirk
67 - Patrick Cantlay, Bubba Watson, Harold Varner, Kelly Kraft, Louis Oosthuizen (RSA), Martin Flores
68 - Keegan Bradley, Justin Rose (ENG), Justin Thomas, Kevin Chappell, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm (ESP), Michael Kim, Ryan Blaum, Emiliano Grillo (ARG)