Johnson, Day atop leader board in Boston
NORTON, Mass. – Zach Johnson and Jason Day beat up on the course and beat the weather at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Johnson strengthened his case as a Ryder Cup pick Friday by rolling in putts from everywhere in easy scoring conditions ahead of Hurricane Earl, giving him an 8-under 63 to share the early lead with Day.
They finished right before play was suspended for 1 1/2 hours when the first remnants of Earl arrived.
The delay didn’t help Tiger Woods. Even with the tee boxes moved forward and the pins in favorable spots in case of high wind and rain late in the round, Woods made four bogeys on his opening six holes and was in last place.
He needs a solid week just to get to the BMW Championship next week, the third round of these FedEx Cup playoffs.
That’s not an issue for Johnson. His hopes this week start with the Ryder Cup, knowing that Corey Pavin will announce his four captain’s picks on Tuesday in New York.
Most players believe Johnson is in good shape to get one of the picks, and opening with a 63 certainly didn’t hurt.
“It would been an honor, and I want to get on that team very, very bad,” Johnson said. “But you can justify the case for a number of guys. I’m not concerned about it. I’m going to let things fall where they fall. I feel like if I keep performing decent, then I’ll have a pretty good chance.”
Day, the 36-hole leader last week at The Barclays, shot 30 on the back nine for his 63.
Among early starters, they had a one-shot lead over seven players, including Ryder Cup hopeful Ryan Palmer and Rory McIlroy, who made eagle on his last hole.
Defending champion Steve Stricker, who has an outside shot to go to No. 1 in the world this week, was in the group at 65.
One thing was clear under a gray sky south of Boston – the early starters caught a big break. Even under conditions that were calm and dry, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway. The tour had to do that in case the first round was not completed Friday and the course turned into a swamp overnight.
Combine that with the shorter tees and accessible pins, and birdies were easy to find.
“There’s a lot of deep scores out there,” Day said. “It was out there today. Hopefully, this thing can blow through and not hit us too hard. But I’ll probably try and put his round behind me and just focus on the next round.”
What makes Johnson so appealing as a captain’s pick is his short game, and that was evident Friday.
He chipped in from behind the 10th green for birdie on his opening hole, made a 30-foot birdie on the 11th, and his day got even better when he holed a 35-foot birdie on the 17th over a knob on the green. He made two birdies on the par 5s with his wedge game and hit his best shot on the par-3 eighth, a 6-iron to about 6 feet.
“This is probably the easiest this golf course can play,” Johnson said. “So I’m not taking anything for granted right now. I’m excited about the remainder of the week.”