Updated: Aug 30
Hideki Matsuyama watches his drive during the first round at the BMW Championship. Photo Credit: Getty Images.
Asian stars Hideki Matsuyama of Japan and Korea's Sungjae Im enjoyed fast starts with matching 5-under 67s at the BMW Championship on Thursday to share seventh place in the penultimate FedExCup Playoffs event.
The duo trail co-first round leaders Rory McIlroy, Sam Burns and World No. 1 and defending champion Jon Rahm by three shots at the Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills in Maryland and remained on track to qualify for the TOUR Championship in Atlanta next week.
Korea's K.H. Lee and Si Woo Kim, the other Asian golfers remaining in the Playoffs, shot rounds of 69 and 74 respectively to be in danger of being eliminated. Only the top-30 will advance into the Season Finale at East Lake Golf Club with a chance to win the TOUR's ultimate prize, the FedExCup which offers golf's richest purse of US$15 million to the champion.
Matsuyama, the reigning Masters champion, opened with a bogey but his game clicked into gear soon after where he responded with five birdies on his outward nine to turn in 32 before adding a sixth birdie on Hole No. 17.
"I feel like I got off to a pretty good start and hope it continues on," said the 29-year-old, whose current 16th place ranking on the FedExCup should easily see him qualifying for his eighth successive TOUR Championship.
After becoming Japan's first male major champion in April, Matsuyama has found form at the right time of the season where he lost in a playoff for the Olympic Games bronze medal in Tokyo and in the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational earlier this month. His form is not the only thing which was getting hot as playing conditions reached a high of nearly 34 degrees Celsius on Thursday.
"It's hot again this week and after playing the Olympics and St. Jude in similar conditions it'd be nice to say we're used to this, but it was pretty rough out there," said the six-time PGA TOUR winner, who hit nine fairways and 14 greens in regulation.
Smooth-swinging Im entered the week in 25th place on the FedExCup standings and produced an eagle, four birdies and one bogey to put himself in a good position for a third successive appearance in Atlanta. The highlight of his round was an eagle two on the fifth when he hit the green with a mighty 330 yard drive and then drained a six-footer.
"I started well and kept my momentum throughout the round. I'm happy with this good start. This is a new course to us but during the practice round, my caddie and I felt we could have good scores here. If I can continue to focus on my game, I think I can play well through the weekend," said Im, who finished T16 in last week's first Playoffs event, THE NORTHERN TRUST.
"If I can continue with this good form, it could get me into the TOUR Championship. I was pleased with my all-round game which felt good today."
Kim, a three-time TOUR winner, pencilled down three birdies against as many bogeys and one double for his 74 while Lee, who broke through for his first win this season, was 4-under through 11 holes before signing for a 69. They entered the week in 33rd and 37th position respectively on the FedExCup standings
First-Round Notes – Thursday, August 26, 2021
Weather: Mostly sunny. High of 93. Wind SSE 5-10 mph. Preferred lies in closely-mown areas were utilized in round one.
Jon Rahm 64 (-8)
Rory McIlroy 64 (-8)
Sam Burns 64 (-8)
Sergio Garcia 65 (-7)
Things to Know
World No. 1 and defending BMW Championship winner Jon Rahm holds a share of the 18-hole lead for the second consecutive week
2012 BMW Championship winner Rory McIlroy ties his lowest score of the season (64/R4/Waste Management Phoenix Open)
In his BMW Championship debut, Sam Burns posts a 64 for the fourth time in his last eight rounds on the PGA TOUR
The top 30 players in the FedExCup at the conclusion of the BMW Championship will advance to the season-ending TOUR Championship
Current projections of players to move into top 30: Sergio Garcia, Keegan Bradley
Current projections of players to move outside top 30: Charley Hoffman, Max Homa
First-Round Lead Notes
First-round leaders/co-leaders since 2000 at the BMW Championship to go on to win (most recent: Justin Thomas/2019)
First-round leaders/co-leaders to win on PGA TOUR in 2020-21 (most recent: Matt Jones/The Honda Classic)
Jon Rahm (T1/-8)
World No. 1 and defending champion holds the 18-hole lead/co-lead for the second straight week on TOUR; the last player to hold at least a share of the 18-hole lead in consecutive weeks was Justin Thomas (2019 BMW Championship, TOUR Championship)
Becomes the third defending champion to hold the 18-hole lead/co-lead this season: Justin Thomas/Sentry Tournament of Champions, Sebastian Munoz/Sanderson Farms Championship
Six-time PGA TOUR winner, including the 2021 U.S. Open; has never successfully defended a title
Eighth career 18-hole lead/co-lead on TOUR; 1-for-7 to date converting to victory (2018 The American Express)
Bogey-free 64 included 28 putts for a total of 117'10" of putts
Last four starts on the PGA TOUR: WD/the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday (led by six strokes after 54 holes and was forced to withdraw), Won/U.S. Open, T3/The Open Championship, 3/THE NORTHERN TRUST
One career win in the FedExCup Playoffs (2020 BMW Championship)
Leads the PGA TOUR in top-10 finishes this season with 13
Rory McIlroy (T1/-8)
2012 BMW Championship winner made seven birdies and an eagle at the par-5 16th to offset one bogey (par-3 13th)
In addition to his 2012 victory, finished inside the top-10 in 2014/T8, 2015/T4 and 2018/5th
Needed 25 putts to sink 106'2" total feet of putts
Since claiming his 19th career TOUR title at the Wells Fargo Championship, has one top-10 finish (T7/U.S. Open)
Two-time FedExCup champion has five FedExCup Playoffs titles, second only to Dustin Johnson (6)
Sam Burns (T1/-8)
In his BMW Championship debut, made four consecutive birdies on Nos. 11-14 en route to his fourth round of 64 in his last eight rounds on the PGA TOUR
Takes his 12th lead/co-lead after any round on the PGA TOUR this season, the most of any player
Is 0-for-1 in converting 18-hole leads/co-leads (2021 The Genesis Invitational/T3)
Is one of four players who qualified for the BMW Championship for the first time in their careers (others: Cam Davis, K.H. Lee, Erik van Rooyen)
Claimed his first career TOUR title in May at the Valspar Championship
Followed a playoff loss at the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational three weeks ago with a T21 at last week's THE NORTHERN TRUST
Miscellaneous Player Notes
Following four straight birdies on Nos. 3-6, Sergio Garcia (4th/-7) birdied two of his last three holes to open with a 7-under 65 in his 11th BMW Championship and first since 2017 (T12); Garcia is No. 44 in the FedExCup as he seeks a return to the TOUR Championship for the first time since 2017
Following bogeys on two of his first six holes, Patrick Cantlay made a career-best five consecutive birdies on Nos. 12-16 en route to a back-nine 30, tying his career-low score on the back nine (three times)
Making his fourth start in the BMW Championship, Abraham Ancer made seven birdies against one bogey en route to a 6-under 66 (T5); highlighted by his first career PGA TOUR win at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, five of his seven top-10 finishes this season have come in his last nine TOUR starts