Northern Trust 2021: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm Share Lead After Opening-Round 63s

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVAugust 19, 2021

Justin Thomas lines up his shot on the eighth green in the first round of play at the Northern Trust golf tournament, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, at Liberty National Golf Course in Jersey City, N.J. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
AP Photo/John Minchillo

Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm are co-leaders of a loaded field at The Northern Trust after each shot 63 in Round 1 on Thursday.

The tournament at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J. is the first of three events of the 2021 FedEx Cup Playoffs with a $15 million bonus on the line. Out of the 125 competitors invited to this event, only the top 70 in the FedEx Cup standings will advance to the BMW Championship next week.

It puts pressure on every hole throughout the tournament, not just with the leaders.

Thomas and Rahm got themselves off to strong starts in the playoff and sit eight strokes under par after the first day of action.

Round 1 Leaderboard

T1. Justin Thomas (-8) 

T1. Jon Rahm (-8)

3. Harold Varner III (-5)

T4. Adam Scott (-4)

T4. Robert Streb (-4)

T4. Mackenzie Hughes (-4)

T4. Cameron Tringale (-4)

T4. Tony Finau (-4)

T4. Kevin Na (-4)

Full leaderboard and stats available at PGATour.com.

Thomas and Rahm each entered the week inside the top 10 of the FedEx Cup standings and will have the opportunity to move into first with a win this week.

Based on how they performed Thursday, it will be a tight battle throughout the tournament.

Thomas was the first into the clubhouse at eight-under thanks to some impressive shots:


Solo lead for <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinThomas34?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JustinThomas34</a>. 🕳 <a href="https://t.co/fBBJ8Yunuw">pic.twitter.com/fBBJ8Yunuw</a>


Dialed in. 👀<a href="https://twitter.com/JustinThomas34?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JustinThomas34</a> gets back into the co-lead at -7. <a href="https://t.co/EtMdplpU6N">pic.twitter.com/EtMdplpU6N</a>


When you’re hot, you’re hot. 🔥<br><br>A ridiculous shot from <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinThomas34?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JustinThomas34</a> at 18. 👏 <a href="https://t.co/c21C65NFe5">pic.twitter.com/c21C65NFe5</a>

Rahm was able to match him thanks to his work in the short game:


Mesmerizing touch from <a href="https://twitter.com/JonRahmpga?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JonRahmPGA</a>. 👌 <a href="https://t.co/CkoCnaRV0m">pic.twitter.com/CkoCnaRV0m</a>

Golf Channel @GolfChannel

WHAT. A. SHOT. 😤<a href="https://twitter.com/JonRahmpga?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JonRahmpga</a> has a tap-in birdie to take the lead <a href="https://twitter.com/TheNTGolf?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TheNTGolf</a>.<br><br>📺 GOLF<br>💻 <a href="https://t.co/HNmktgvyOV">https://t.co/HNmktgvyOV</a><a href="https://t.co/m4UsPDiaZI">pic.twitter.com/m4UsPDiaZI</a>


Birdie for the lead for <a href="https://twitter.com/JonRahmpga?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JonRahmPGA</a>. 🐦 <a href="https://t.co/bh9aei2Cte">pic.twitter.com/bh9aei2Cte</a>

Both players closed strong with four birdies in the final six holes, although they succeeded in different ways. Thomas averaged 323 yards with his drives while also gaining 2.486 strokes on the greens. Rahm's drives averaged just 280.5 yards but he reached 83.3 percent of greens in regulation.

The two methods were still successful as the players pulled away from the rest of the field.

Harold Varner III and Adam Scott also came through with strong showings after entering the day outside the top 70 in the FedEx Cup rankings. Scott carded an eagle on the par-five No. 6 hole, helping him remain in contention after the first round.

Other big names will have to find more consistency to move up the leaderboard, especially Bryson DeChambeau. The American finished even par, but took a wild route to get there:

Kyle Porter @KylePorterCBS

Birdies: 9<br>Pars: 2<br>Bogeys: 5<br>Doubles: 2<br>Score: E<br><br>A Monet. 🎨 <a href="https://t.co/EIWC8YYZMf">pic.twitter.com/EIWC8YYZMf</a>

Justin Ray @JustinRayGolf

Stroke play rounds on <a href="https://twitter.com/PGATOUR?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@PGATOUR</a> this season: 18,368<br><br>Rounds with 2 or fewer pars: 1<br><br>Bryson DeChambeau (Even par), today

Rory McIlroy also finished with an even-71 after totaling five birdies and five bogeys in the round.

These players can be in contention if they fix their mistakes, but the cut line is also within reach.

Dustin Johnson is also worth watching at one stroke under par despite some club issues:


He's even thru 7 holes today. <a href="https://t.co/AOh2HvpmXR">pic.twitter.com/AOh2HvpmXR</a>

Johnson impressively still averaged 300 yards off the tee during the round and kept himself alive for the rest of the week. As the defending champion of both the Northern Trust and the FedEx Cup, he is certainly not someone to count out.

Fans should also keep an eye on Bubba Watson (E), Ian Poulter (+1) and Jason Day (+2) among those near the projected cut line and currently on the outside looking in of reaching the BMW Championship based on the projected standings