Tour Championship 2019: Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas Lead

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistAugust 22, 2019

Xander Schauffele tees off on the second hole during the first round of the Tour Championship golf tournament Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
John Amis/Associated Press

Justin Thomas had a two-stroke lead before he started the 2019 Tour Championship, but he couldn't keep the outright lead Thursday.

Under the new format, players began the tournament with a score relative to their place in the FedEx Cup standings. Thomas opened the day at 10 under par, followed by Patrick Cantlay at eight under.

Thomas started with at least a six-shot advantage over 25 of the 30 competitors, but he went into the clubhouse in a three-way for the lead, along with Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka.

Here's the top of the leaderboard from Atlanta's East Lake course, via PGATour.com

T1. Xander Schauffele (-10)

T1. Brooks Koepka (-10)

T1. Justin Thomas (-10)

4. Rory McIlroy (-9)

T5. Patrick Cantlay (-8)

T5. Matt Kuchar (-8)

7. Hideki Matsuyama (-7)

T8. Paul Casey (-6)

T8. Jon Rahm (-6)

T8. Patrick Reed (-6)

The lead-up to the Tour Championship has been rough for Schauffele. His last top-10 finish came at the U.S. Open in June, a streak of four tournaments that also includes one missed cut two weeks ago at the Northern Trust. 

Schauffele's opening score of 64 is his best round since posting a 62 in the final round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January. 

Despite this recent rough patch, Schauffele has a strong track record at this tournament. The 25-year-old won the 2017 event en route to being named PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. He had a bogey-free day Thursday. 

Thomas finds himself even with Schauffele because of this blunder off the tee on No. 15:

The double-bogey was just one of many mistakes for Thomas in the round. His driving accuracy off the tee was just 42.9 percent. He also struggled on the green, costing himself .808 strokes with the putter, but did salvage the round with a birdie on No. 18. 

Like Schauffele, McIlroy is attempting to win the Tour Championship for the second time. The Irish star beat Kevin Chappell and Ryan Moore in a playoff three years ago. 

McIlroy started the day five under par and moved up one spot on the strength of five birdies. He nearly added a hole-in-one on No. 9:

Based on the opening round, the rest of the tournament looks to be an intense battle for the FedEx Cup crown. Of the 30 players in the field, only 10 were over par Thursday. 

The change in scoring was meant to give an advantage to players who had performed well recently, but with three players sharing the lead and seven others within four shots of the top spot, the field remains wide-open with 54 holes still to play.

Friday's second round will start at 11:45 a.m. ET.  

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