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:
Conditions at the Lake Forest, Ill. venue were extremely windy, but the soft, receptive greens yielded a lot of lower scores, although it became difficult to post lower numbers as the afternoon wore on.
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.
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:
He hit a professionally decent 12 of 18 greens in regulation but continued to pour in putts from everywhere, gaining more than 3.5 strokes on the field on the greens. His run of seven birdies was the best of the 2013 season.
After the round, his playing competitor Stricker, who is also a magnificent putter, declared Snedeker as the best he'd ever seen:
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.
Meanwhile, the 2007 Masters winner Johnson missed only two greens on the day and capitalized on many of those opportunities.
He missed The Barclays to attend his brother's wedding, and when Johnson finished tied for 27th in the second leg of the playoffs, it seemed he was a bit off. He had finished no worse than eighth in his previous five starts.
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:
Let's take a look at some of the other big developments in the penultimate event of the PGA Tour postseason.
Tiger's Turbulence Prevents Further Leaderboard Climb
It's hard to knock the overall result of Woods' round of 66. He struck the ball beautifully, missing only three putting surfaces all day and knocking in a ton of short-range birdie putts.
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:
In speaking with the media afterward, per the Golf Channel telecast, the world No. 1 admitted he played well but implied that he didn't get a lot out of the round based on how he was striking the ball.
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.
Young Stars Struggle
The strange odyssey of Rory McIlroy's 2013 season continued. Any previous momentum he had generated from a Top 10 at the PGA Championship and flashes of brilliance in the first two playoff events was halted with a seven-over 78.
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.
Instead, Fowler at least hung tough and bested McIlroy by a stroke with 77. Having said that, both of these young guns have high expectations, and while McIlroy has had huge success, Fowler is still floundering with one tour victory on his resume.
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.