Brandt Snedeker used a phenomenal run of seven consecutive birdies to shoot to the top of the 2013 BMW Championship leaderboard on Thursday with an eight-under round of 63.
The defending FedEx Cup champion leads by a stroke over Zach Johnson. An impressive group consisting of Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker, Charl Schwartzel and Kevin Streelman lurks just three shots off the pace at Conway Farms Golf Club.
Below is a look at the top performers through the first day of action:
ESPN's Justin Ray captured just how amazing Snedeker was with the flat iron in draining 15 of 18 putts from 20 feet and closer:
Since he won the RBC Canadian Open in late July, the final stretch of the season had been unkind to Snedeker, who entered this tournament having missed two of five cuts and not even sniffing contention.
Leader @BrandtSnedeker (-8): 15-for-18 on putts 20 feet and in today.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) September 12, 2013
It's funny how things can turn with just one spectacular round, and that's precisely what happened for him in Round 1.
A modest start to his day at No. 10 consisted of three consecutive pars, but then his typically scorching-hot putter heated up when he began his spectacular run at the par-four 13th.
The par-three sixth hole was Snedeker's final birdie of the bogey-free day, where he drained a slick 15-foot putt to move to minus-eight:
After the round, his playing competitor Stricker, who is also a magnificent putter, declared Snedeker as the best he'd ever seen:
What did @BrandtSnedeker try to do while he was on his 7 consec. birdie streak? "Stay out of my own head" ..solo leader after an -8/63— Amanda Balionis (@Amanda_Balionis) September 12, 2013
According to Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman on the network's post-round telecast, Snedeker will become the first defending FedEx Cup champion to advance to next week's Tour Championship.
Steve Stricker just called Brandt Snedeker "the best putter I've ever seen." Not a bad compliment from one of the best himself.— Shane Bacon (@shanebacon) September 12, 2013
Meanwhile, the 2007 Masters winner Johnson missed only two greens on the day and capitalized on many of those opportunities.
Perhaps now is the time for Johnson to break through with his first victory of the season. The course is generally wide open and not very long, which suits him well.
Strong wedge play is a staple of his game, and this beauty to the par-five 18th capped his round in fashion:
Tiger's Turbulence Prevents Further Leaderboard Climb
What marred his day were two three-putts for bogey on his back nine to go along with a short birdie miss at the par-five eighth. If not for those rare miscues, he could have been tied with Snedeker for the lead—or even alone at the top.
Woods did close out in fashion as he has on many occasions with a bomb of a birdie putt at the par-four ninth hole, which eased the pain of those misses:
He sarcastically mentioned that he played the par-fives "stupendously," when he actually parred all of them. That is not the mark of his former dominance, but it is a sign that if he can roll in a few more putts, he should find himself in contention.
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He has failed to live up to the hype after winning both major tour money lists last season, and now time is really running out on him before this year becomes an abject disappointment.
Putting was the big problem on this occasion, as the 24-year-old prodigy took 34 strokes on the greens.
Another surprising straggler when the course was very gettable was Rickie Fowler.
The American started with two double bogeys at Nos. 10 and 11, and if not for three consecutive birdies to close, his round would have been a lot uglier.
Twenty-year-old Jordan Spieth birdied three of his first four holes and then bogeyed five of his last 11 to settle for an even-par 71.
Spieth is just getting his feet wet on tour, though, so he deserves a bit of a break. Plus, he hasn't shot himself completely out of the event as McIlroy and Fowler have.