Northern Trust 2018: Kevin Tway, Jamie Lovemark, Vaughn Taylor, Sean O'Hair Lead

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2018

Kevin Tway hits from a bunker onto the sixth green during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament Sunday, March 18, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

If the first-round leaderboard at the 2018 Northern Trust holds, the FedEx Cup standings are going to look awfully different at the end of the weekend.

Kevin Tway, Jamie Lovemark, Vaughn Taylor and Sean O'Hair, four golfers who all sat outside the top 80 in the standings heading into the playoff opener, shot a five-under 66 to share the lead by one stroke following 18 holes.

A group of 13 players, highlighted by world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka, sit one stroke behind at four under. Fifty-nine golfers shot an under par round Thursday and only four players shot worse than 75 with course conditions playing relatively easy.

All four leaders made their mark in different ways. Tway and Lovemark did the majority of their damage on the front nine; Tway birdied three of the course's first four holes, while Lovemark was three under after three. Each played two under the rest of the way to get in at five under. 

O'Hair was also better on the front nine holes but waited a little longer. It wasn't until he eagled the par-five third that his round got underway, and he made the turn at four under. He parred his way through the back nine until birdieing No. 17 to tie the leaders.

Vaughn, meanwhile, went on an epic hot streak to close out his round. Sitting at even par through 12 holes, Vaughn birdied five of the last six on the course, with a run of four straight to close out his day. Just one of his birdies came from outside 10 feet, thanks to some strong work with his irons.

Johnson would have walked into Friday with a lead if it weren't for a disastrous turn at No. 17. Sitting at four under through his first eight holes, Johnson drilled his tee shot into the woods out of bounds and later found himself in a sand trap on the par-five. He didn't get onto the green until his sixth shot and two-putted for a triple, making the turn at one under.

That proved to be just a momentary blip on the round. Johnson played the front nine (his back) at three under and finished the day with seven birdies and that ugly 8. His round highlight was a near-miss of a hole-in-one on the par-three sixth. 

"The triple was just so bad," Johnson told reporters. "I'm trying to hit a high cut and to the right side [on the drive]. I hit that ball 70 yards left of where I was looking, and in general, if I'm trying to hit a high cut, if anything, I'm going to over cut it to the right. It came off low and hooked. So I just laughed. I literally just laughed the way I hit the shot. I haven't hit that shot in a long time, so it was kind of funny.

Koepka, who could overtake Johnson as the world No. 1 this week, shot a matching 67 thanks to a pair or birdies on each 9 and an eagle on the par-five 17th. 

"I'd love to knock him off, and I'm sure he'd love to keep me where I'm at," Koepka said. "You know, it's fun. … I'm trying to out-perform him and he's trying to do the same thing."

Not pleased with his round is Tiger Woods, who sits in a tie for 60th after shooting an even-par 71. Woods spent most of the round frustrated with his putter and his approaches, the latter leaving potential birdies on the course and the former making the under-par chances fewer than they should have been. 

"(It was) one of those days where I just kept having the half-club and was never able to fully swing at it and having to hit little softies in there, control my flight, maneuver the golf ball," Woods told reporters. "One of those days. … Just one of those days. For example at the PGA on Sunday, I had the perfect full club and I could go after it. At The Open Championship on Saturday, I had, again, the perfect full clubs. Those are days when you take advantage of them, and then there are days when you just don't have—you're kind of in-between clubs, and given the conditions, as soft as they are, you can't take the low club. You have to take the high one."

Jordan Spieth sits one stroke ahead of Tiger in a tie for 46th. 

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