Troy Merritt, needing a good result to advance in the FedEx Cup playoffs, enjoyed a spectacular start to the PGA Tour’s postseason on Thursday.
The 33-year-old Iowa native shot a course-record-tying, 9-under-par 62 to grab the first-round lead in The Northern Trust at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J.
Dustin Johnson is in second place at 8 under, and Kevin Kisner and Spain’s Jon Rahm share third place at 7 under.
Webb Simpson, Tony Finau, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and England’s Justin Rose are tied for fifth at 6 under. Nine players, including Patrick Reed, are at 5 under, tied for ninth.
Merritt, whose only PGA Tour wins came at the 2015 Quicken Loans National and the 2018 Barbasol Championship, began play Thursday in 72nd place in the FedEx Cup standings. Only the top 70 will advance to the second playoff event, next week’s BMW Championship at Medinah Country Club near Chicago.
The top 30 players following the BMW Championship will compete in the Tour Championship, Aug. 22-25 at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
Merritt began on the back nine and started with a par followed by four consecutive birdies. He added birdies at Nos. 17 and No. 1, then three more in a row on Nos. 4-6 in a bogey-free round.
Johnson also produced a bogey-free round, making four birdies in a five-hole span on the back nine before adding four in a row in the front nine.
Kisner’s day featured a 108-yard hole-out for an eagle on the par-4 second hole plus five birdies and no bogeys. Rahm had seven birdies — including five in a row from No. 16 to No. 2 — and no bogeys.
Reigning Masters champion Tiger Woods struggled to a 4-over 75, leaving him tied for 116th and in danger of missing the cut. Only one player in the field shot worse.
“I knew today we had the perfect greens, and I needed to shoot something under, but I went the wrong way,” Woods said, via the Golf Channel’s Tiger Tracker.
Top-ranked Brooks Koepka, the reigning PGA Championship winner, is tied for 65th at 1 under. Open Championship titleholder Shane Lowry of Ireland is at 2 under, tied for 51st, and U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland is tied for 100th at 2 over.