|BMW Championship (US unless stated)|
|-9: Leishman (Aus); -7: Day (Aus), Hoffman, Lovemark; -6: Fowler, Bradley, Spieth, Finau, Cabrera-Bello (Spa)|
|Selected others: -5: Mickelson; -4: Rose -3: Garcia (Spa); -2: Poulter (Eng), Casey (Eng); level: D Johnson; +1: McIlroy (NI)|
Rory McIlroy’s defence of his FedEx Cup title was damaged by a one over par round as Marc Leishman shot nine under in round one of the BMW Championship.
McIlroy is 51st in the FedEx Cup standings and needs to be in the top 30 to reach next week’s Tour Championship, where the winner gets a $10m bonus.
But six dropped shots led to a round of 72 at Illinois’ Conway Farms Golf Club.
Australia’s Leishman hit 10 birdies to lead compatriot Jason Day and American Charley Hoffman by two shots.
Classy Leishman continues fine form
Leishman dropped just one shot and looked in fine touch all day, hitting 79% of fairways and 89% of greens. He was five under after his opening nine holes and picked up four more birdies on a bogey-free back nine.
It was a continuation of fine form this year which has seen him win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March and make the cut in all four majors. As the season draws to a close, the 33-year-old has six top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour.
That form sees him seventh in the FedEx Cup rankings prior to this week’s event, where players seek points to make it to the final Tour event of the season, next week’s Tour Championship in Atlanta.
McIlroy won the Tour Championship last year to scoop the lucrative FedEx Cup bonus but he has work to do over the final three rounds at Conway Farms if he is to qualify.
Only nine players – including Scotland’s Martin Laird – finished on a mark worse than one over. Though McIlroy drove the ball an average of 330 yards, he found the fairway just 50% of the time off the tee.
World number two Jordan Spieth leads the FedEx Cup rankings and is just three shots behind Leishman on six under, the same mark as Rickie Fowler who carded six birdies in a row from holes 12 to 17. It was the longest birdie streak in the 28-year-old’s career.
England’s Justin Rose is the best placed Briton on four under, with compatriots Paul Casey and Ian Poulter two shots worse off.
World number one Dustin Johnson’s round was turbulent and contained an eagle, three birdies, three bogeys and a double-bogey.
Johnson won the first of the FedEx Cup play-off events – the Northern Trust – and sits third in the standings overall.
How does the FedEx Cup work?
- Players pick up points throughout the regular season in each event they play. Most tournaments give 500 points to the winner
- The top 125 players enter the play-offs, which consist of four tournaments and where winning carries 2,000 points
- The field is whittled down to 100, 70 and then 30 for the final event, the Tour Championship
- Points are then reset, so that the number one player has 2000 points, number two has 1800 and number 30 has 115
- Points earned at the Tour Championship are added to that reset value and the player with the highest points total is named winner of the FedEx Cup