Dustin Johnson doesn't necessarily need to win the Tour Championship to clinch his first FedEx Cup title, but the world No. 2 carded a four-under 66 on Thursday, putting him in a three-way tie for the lead after the first round.
Hideki Matsuyama and Kevin Chappell are the co-leaders of the 30-man field at Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club.
Playing in the last group of the day, Johnson raced out to three birdies in his first six holes before calming down. He played the rest of the round at one under, going birdie-bogey on Nos. 12 and 13 before finishing with a birdie on No. 18.
The PGA Tour provided a look at a couple of Johnson's stellar shots:
The 32-year-old is two weeks removed from taking the BMW Championship and putting himself in position to secure the FedEx Cup. While the PGA Tour reset the points ahead of the season's final event to make it possible for all 30 golfers in the field to have a chance to take the FedEx Cup, those in the top five control their own destiny.
Chappell and Matsuyama entered the tournament in 15th and 17th, respectively, so they would need Johnson, who's in first place, to drop to overtake him in the standings.
Chappell, who has yet to win in 2016, has recorded four top-three finishes. He did all of his damage on the front nine, recording four birdies before playing the back with nine pars.
The PGA Tour captured his final birdie of the day, a spectacular putt from nearly 60 feet out on No. 9:
Matsuyama had a wild, up-and-down front nine. He recorded four birdies in his first six holes but added frustrating bogeys on Nos. 2 and 8. His irons were a mess for most of the day, but he saved his round with a solid putting performance, recording two more birdies on the back.
"My putting and short game saved me today," Matsuyama said after the round, per Joel Beall of Golf Digest. "I wasn't hitting the ball real crisp."
The leaders sit one stroke ahead of Jason Day, Kevin Kisner and Si Woo Kim, who each shot 67s. Day had a mess of a day off the tee, hitting just 35.7 percent of his fairways. He made up for it with a sterling putting performance and wound up recording just one bogey against four birdies—which was borderline miraculous, given the spots he put himself in.
The world No. 1 was playing competitively for the first time since withdrawing from the BMW Championship because of a back injury.
"I feel like the practice over the last couple of days back at home felt pretty good," he said, per Bob Harig of ESPN.com. "Haven't been able to prep as much as I would like...but overall I feel good."
Also sitting firmly in contention are Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, who are tied for seventh after recording two-unders. McIlroy overcame a pair of double bogeys on Nos. 7 and 8 with a four-birdie stretch on the back nine, giving him seven on the day.
McIlroy spoke about his round on Sky Sports (via the Belfast Telegraph):
I said to JP (Fitzgerald, his caddie) out there, I am mixing a lot of bad with a lot of good so if I can eradicate the mistakes, seven birdies around this golf course is pretty good and as you can see, once I get a couple of birdies I get some confidence and momentum. I am actually more comfortable on the breaking putts.
The ones that I missed were dead straight.
Spieth, the defending Tour Championship and FedEx Cup winner, made up most of his ground on the short surface. He needed just 25 putts on the round, overcoming a three-over start on his first two holes.
"From 20-plus feet, I can roll them in on these greens," he said after the round, per golf writer John Strege. "I feel very comfortable doing so."
Adam Scott and Matt Kuchar rounded out the list of golfers who are under par, with both shooting 69s. Only 14 golfers are sitting better than two over, with the par-70 course playing difficult for most of the day.
Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.