How it Happened: Snedeker's 63 leads BMW
With only two events left in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, each tournament takes on a new importance as the world's best fight for the $10 million prize for the winner.
Not a bad time to roll off seven straight birdies – which is exactly what Brandt Snedeker did during the first round of the BMW Championship on Thursday as Conway Farms made its PGA Tour debut.
Snedeker turned that run into an 8-under 63 to lead Zach Johnson by a shot – with Tiger Woods among four golfers tied for third, three shots back at 5 under.
Recap the day's highlights right here – and scroll down for our preview coverage of the BMW Championship:
• • •
Update No. 12: 6:21 p.m. EDT
Finishing birdie-par at Nos. 8-9, Hunter Mahan climbs to a three-way tie for 11th and cards a 3-under 68. Mahan is 18th in points.
• • •
Update No. 11: 6:06 p.m. EDT
Finishing with back-to-back pars, Phil Mickelson gets to the clubhouse in 70 and ends his day at 1 under, good for T-18.
• • •
Update No. 10: 5:51 p.m. EDT
Kevin Streelman rises to T-3 with a birdie at the last for a 66. A Duke product, Streelman won the Tampa Bay Championship in March.
• • •
Update No. 9: 5:46 p.m. EDT
Let's take a look at the top 10 in FedEx Cup points and how they're faring today:
- 1. Henrik Stenson: T-39, 1-over 72
- 2. Tiger Woods: T-3, 5-under 66
- 3. Adam Scott: T-7, 4-under 67
- 4. Matt Kuchar: T-57, 3 over through 17
- 5. Graham DeLaet: T-15, 2 under through 17
- 6. Phil Mickelson: T-19, 1 under through 17
- 7. Justin Rose: T-29, even-par 71
- 8. Steve Stricker: T-3, 5-under 66
- 9. Brandt Snedeker: Leader, 8-under 63
- 10. Jordan Spieth: T-29, even par through 17
• • •
Update No. 8: 5:39 p.m. EDT
With three birdies in his last four holes, Kevin Streelman also moves to 4 under with one hole to play. Streelman is 16th in points.
• • •
Update No. 7: 5:33 p.m. EDT
With seven birdies against three bogeys, Matt Jones of Australia is 4 under through 15 holes. Jones, 51st in points, has two sets of back-to-back birdies, most recently at Nos. 14-15.
• • •
Update No. 6: 5:28 p.m. EDT
After nearly holing out from the fairway in making birdie at No. 15, Phil Mickelson chips it in from the rough behind the green for another birdie – his third in a row – at No. 16. That gets him to 1 under for the first time today.
• • •
Update No. 5: 5:24 p.m. EDT
A couple of other big names have been bitten by Conway Farms during this first round, besides the injured Lee Westwood.
Rory McIlroy carded a 78 during which both nines turned sour early: His second hole of the day was a double bogey at No. 11, while he took triple bogey at No. 1 after making the turn. McIlroy, 41st in points, also had two birdies and four bogeys.
Rickie Fowler started with back-to-back double bogeys at Nos. 10-11, had four more bogeys before the turn and didn't birdie until reaching No. 7 – after which he made another at No. 8 and yet another No. 9 for something of a recovery en route to a 76.
• • •
Update No. 4: 5:16 p.m. EDT
Lee Westwood, after carding a 9-over 80, explains he was playing hurt today. As he posted from his Twitter account, @WestwoodLee: "Well shouldn't really play injured but everybody wants to play the tour championship . Give it a night to see if my neck & back settle down. . . . At least I've got 5 weeks off to get it right. Thanks for all you concern."
• • •
Update No. 3: 5:11 p.m. EDT
Here's a look at the leaderboard, with nearly everyone 4 under or better having finished their round:
- -8 (63): Brandt Snedeker.
- -7 (64): Zach Johnson.
- -5 (66): Charl Schwartzel, Steve Stricker, Tiger Woods.
- -4 (67): John Merrick, Ryan Moore, Adam Scott; and through 17 holes, Nick Watney.
• • •
Update No. 2: 5:05 p.m. EDT
Phil Mickelson has been quiet today, but nearly holes out from the fairway and taps in for birdie at No. 15 to get back to even par for the day. Sixth in points, Mickelson has three birdies and three bogeys.
• • •
Update No. 1: 4:53 p.m. EDT
With much of the top of the leaderboard already in the clubhouse, here's who's still in contention out on the course: Ryan Moore is 4 under and about to wrap up his round at No. 9, while Hunter Mahan and Nick Watney are 3 under with four and two holes left to play, respectively. Six golfers are 2 under and still making their way around Conway Farms.
• • •
Hole No. 9: Par 4, 405 yards
An even-par day on the par 5s won't please Tiger Woods, but his iron play has been strong today when he's avoided trouble from the tee box. He'll try to get one more stroke back at this relatively simple par 4.
Off the tee: Fairway here for Tiger on his last tee shot of the round.
From the fairway: The wind appears to be right-to-left here; Tiger finds the line but flies it over the pin and lands it on the back of the green.
On the green: From inside 25 feet, Tiger makes a strong run at the hole – and the putt falls, with enough steam on it to have run well past had it not been on target. Talk about finishing with flair.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 5-under 66; T-3, three off the lead.
Elsewhere on the course: Leader Brandt Snedeker misses the No. 9 green with his final approach of the day and takes a drop from the grandstand. From there he chips to tap-in range and makes the comebacker to card a 63 that's likely to earn the first-round lead.
• • •
Hole No. 8: Par 5, 600 yards
Will a par-5, albeit a long one with risks, as our Bradley S. Klein noted earlier this week, give Tiger Woods an opportunity to close the gap a bit?
Off the tee: Tiger hits it in the rough between two left-side fairway bunkers and faces a stiff challenge if he decides to go for it in two here.
On the approach: In an aggressive play, Tiger takes a mighty swing from the rough, with water and bunkers between him and the green – he comes up short, clearing the water but bouncing into a greenside bunker.
Around the green: With a bunker to clear and not a lot of green to work with, Tiger executes a strong sand shot here – getting the ball to pin high and inside 5 feet for a birdie chance. He misses left and maybe 3 feet long, but sinks the comebacker for par.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 4 under; T-5, four off the lead.
Elsewhere on the course: John Merrick, who held the lead early, cards a 67 for leader-in-the-clubhouse honors as Brandt Snedeker (who leads at 8 under), Zach Johnson and Charl Schwartzel are wrapping up their rounds. Johnson narrows the lead to a shot again, birdieing the last for a 64. Schwartzel pars No. 9 to end his round with a 66.
• • •
Hole No. 7: Par 4, 340 yards
So, alternating birdies and bogeys for Tiger Woods during the last four holes have seen him drop five off Brandt Snedeker's lead pace. Let's see if Tiger can again follow a bogey with a birdie.
Off the tee: Tiger takes a run at this short par 4, hitting it in the throat of the fairway short and right of the green to leave himself a short pitch as he'll try for an up-and-down birdie.
On the approach: A simple pitch-and-run gives Tiger a birdie opportunity of just about 5 feet or a little inside that.
On the green: Finding the center, Tiger rolls his birdie putt in to again erase a bogey.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 4 under; T-4, four off the lead.
Elsewhere on the course: At the bottom of the leaderboard, Rickie Fowler and Lee Westwood are 9 over through 16 and 12 holes respectively.
• • •
Hole No. 6: Par 3, 218 yards
You've got to figure any par 3 suits Tiger Woods today, as he steadily has shown excellent iron play – missing few greens and creating several chances inside 15 feet.
Off the tee: Pin high, Tiger pushes this one right and is about 20 feet away for his birdie try.
On the green: Likely hitting it through the break, Tiger runs it past on the high side by a couple of feet. He lips out for another three putt, his second of this nine, again missing on the high side. He makes the bogey comebacker.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 3 under; T-8, five off the lead.
Elsewhere on the course: Leader Brandt Snedeker cards his first birdie since his seven-in-a-row run ended, moving to 8 under.
• • •
Hole No. 5: Par 4, 470 yards
We'll see how costly that lip-out bogey proves for Tiger Woods, depending on whether he keeps his game sharp during his closing stretch today.
Off the tee: Tiger gets it in the fairway, skipping the driver, and has a longer approach in.
From the fairway: That bogey could well be quickly erased here, as Tiger again shows how sharp his iron game is today and hits it again to about 5 feet.
On the green: Boom. Bogey erased, as Tiger makes it look easy on this hole.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 4 under; T-3, 3 shots off the lead.
Elsewhere on the course: Leader Brandt Snedeker has parred four straight to remain 7 under. He's just one shot ahead of Zach Johnson, who birdies No. 15 to narrow the lead. Adam Scott, playing alongside Woods, bogeys No. 4 as well and drops to 2 under.
• • •
Hole No. 4: Par 4, 486 yards
As leader Brandt Snedeker settles in with a couple of pars to follow his birdie string and remain 7 under, Tiger Woods has picked up the pace.
Off the tee: Despite the length of this par 4, Tiger takes fairway wood off the tee and finds the short grass without leaving too long of a shot in.
On the approach: A bit short and left, Tiger finds the green but leaves about 20 feet for birdie.
On the green: Running it past, Tiger misses right and then lips out the comebacker as he records a three-putt bogey.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 3 under; T-6, 4 shots off the lead.
Elsewhere on the course: Like leader Brandt Snedeker, Zach Johnson has rolled off two straight pars and remains in second, two shots back at 5 under.
• • •
Hole No. 3: Par 4, 402 yards
When Tiger Woods has been on today, the birdies have come easily – all three with putts inside 7 or 8 feet – and he's avoided bogey. Let's see how he does the rest of the way, with seven to go.
Off the tee: Iron off the tee creates another fairway hit for Tiger Woods.
From the fairway: Trouble making 10 footers? Dial in the iron play. Tiger hits another approach close, this one about 5 feet or so, for another solid birdie look.
On the green: It's in the hole, as Tiger's strong approach shot earns another birdie.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 4 under; T-3, three shots off the lead.
Elsewhere on the course: John Merrick and Charl Schwartzel birdie Nos. 15 and 13, respectively, to match Woods at 4 under, T-3 and three back of leader Brandt Snedeker. Roberto Castro had been alone in third at 4 under through 12 holes on the strength of three straight birdies at Nos. 8-10 as he made the turn; he then bogeyed No. 13 to fall into a sizeable pack at 3 under.
• • •
Hole No. 2: Par 3, 196 yards
The par 3s have been good to Tiger Woods so far today, with an up-and-down for par and a birdie. He could stand to gain another stroke here.
Off the tee: On the green here with a birdie likely to happen here – as Tiger hits it to inside 3 feet.
On the green: Tiger makes the birdie official, knocking in his short putt.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 3 under; T-4, four shots off the lead.
Elsewhere on the course: Leader Brandt Snedeker puts his birdie streak in jeopardy as his tee shot at No. 2 finds the green but leaves a birdie putt of 40 feet or more on the table. He comes up a couple of feet short and makes the par putt to remain 7 under, closing his birdie binge at seven straight – he also, the Tour notes, went seven straight holes below par at the 2007 Buick Invitational.
• • •
Hole No. 1: Par 4, 355 yards
A 2-under first nine keeps Tiger Woods in the top-10 mix, even as leader Brandt Snedeker caught fire. We'll see if Tiger's form holds.
Off the tee: Iron off the tee for Tiger on this short hole, and it finds the fairway for a likely wedge in.
From the fairway: Missing to the right, Tiger hits it into the greenside rough and needs an up-and-down here with Snedeker and Zach Johnson looking to go low today.
Around the green: Solid chip here from Tiger, which gets him within a putter grip, and he taps in for par.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 2 under; T-9, five shots off the lead.
Elsewhere on the course: Zach Johnson pulls within a shot of leader Brandt Snedeker, birdieing three straight from Nos. 9-11. Snedeker then tacks on yet another birdie, his seventh in a row, to restore his two-shot lead.
• • •
Hole No. 18: Par 5, 570 yards
A little momentum going into the turn always helps. Let's see if Tiger Woods can build on his mostly steady play today after getting a putt into the hole there.
Off the tee: The driver stays in the bag and he finds the fairway, unlikely to go for it in two though.
From the fairway: Getting to about 100 yards, Tiger lays up and his ball comes to rest on the collar. His third shot goes left of the hole but finds the green, about 20-25 feet from the pin.
On the green: The birdie attempt runs a couple of feet past and Tiger knocks it in for par.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 2 under; T-9, 4 off the lead.
Elsewhere on the course: Make it six straight birdies for leader Brandt Snedeker, as he cards a 4 on the par-5 No. 18 before heading over to No. 1. Snedeker is two shots ahead of Roberto Castro, Zach Johnson, John Merrick and Charl Schwartzel.
FedEx Cup points leader Henrik Stenson has been on a roller coaster since opening with three pars: double bogey, par, birdie, bogey, birdie. He's 1 over, T-52.
• • •
Hole No. 17: Par 3, 205 yards
Solid hole from Tiger Woods there, a textbook par, but there's little doubt to anyone who follows the sport that he wants more.
Off the tee: Finding the green, as he has often today, Tiger hits it within 10 feet for a good look at birdie here. We'll see if he can convert for the first time since his opening hole when he birdied No. 10.
On the green: This one hits the bottom of the cup for Tiger's second birdie of the day, which enables him to keep pace with the lead.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 2 under; T-7, 3 off the lead.
Elsewhere on the course: Five straight birdies for leader Brandt Snedeker as he charges to the lead at 5 under through eight holes. Jordan Spieth opens with par and birdies three straight to pull within two shots, among four golfers T-3 at 3 under.
• • •
Hole No. 16: Par 4, 466 yards
Tiger Woods doesn't have his "A game," necessarily, but it's not that far off either. If putts start falling, or something clicks mentally, a run could happen in a hurry.
Off the tee: Fairway time again, as Tiger has been reliable off the tee today, with about 180 left into the green.
From the fairway: Tiger lands it on the green and faces about a 20-footer or so to try to move to 2 under.
On the green: Close again, but Tiger misses again with a birdie putt – and again raps it in for par.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 1 under; T-10, 3 off the lead.
Elsewhere on the course: Brandt Snedeker joins Charl Schwartzel in the lead at 4 under, with four straight birdies from Nos. 13-16. Snedeker is ninth in points.
• • •
Hole No. 15: Par 4, 342 yards
Four straight pars is never bad, but it's easy to imagine Tiger Woods isn't happy a par 5 was among them.
Off the tee: Skipping the driver on this short hole, Tiger lays up to wedge distance.
From the fairway: Tiger gets it on the green, inside 15 feet for another reasonable birdie look.
On the green: This birdie attempt again is just a bit off – he's been around the hole all day. It's another two-putt for par.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 1 under; T-9, 3 off the lead.
Elsewhere on the course: Also in Tiger's group, Adam Scott birdies the par-5 14th to get to 1 under. FedEx Cup points leader Henrik Stenson is 2 over today, a double-bogey at the par-4 13th the only flaw on his card so far. Atop the leaderboard, John Merrick bogeys No. 9 to leave Charl Schwartzel alone in the lead.
• • •
Hole No. 14: Par 5, 585 yards
Let's see how aggressive Tiger Woods gets during his first crack at a par 5 today, where Patrick Reed already has been caught for bogey.
Off the tee: Choosing driver, Tiger finds the fairway and gives himself a chance to get home in two here.
From the fairway: Tiger rips a fairway wood and gets greenside, missing the green well left but giving himself a chance to get up and down for birdie.
Around the green: From the greenside bunker, Tiger gets it on the green but leaves himself more than 10 feet out. He runs his birdie try a couple of feet past and knocks in the comebacker, losing pace to the leaders once again.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 1 under; T-8, 3 off the lead.
Elsewhere on the course: Charl Schwartzel moves to 4 under with a birdie at No. 15, his fourth in six holes, while co-leader John Merrick does the same with a birdie at No. 8. They lead by a shot over Graeme McDowell, who birdies Nos. 15-16.
• • •
Hole No. 13: Par 4, 465 yards
A birdie chance gets away from Tiger Woods at his third hole of the day and he loses pace to the lead.
Off the tee: Wide right off the tee for the first time today, Tiger hits his tee ball in the rough despite going with a fairway wood.
On the approach: From the tall grass, Tiger's second shot finds the greenside bunker, again wide right. He's gotten up and down from the greenside rough today, can he convert his first sand-save challenge as well?
Around the green: A bit short-sided, Tiger manages a nice effort to get inside 5 feet. Call it a 3-footer, which he makes.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 1 under; T-7, 2 off the lead.
Elsewhere on the course: John Merrick holds steady at 3 under with pars at Nos. 6-7; he shares the lead with Charl Schwartzel, who birdies No. 14. Jim Furyk birdies Nos. 1 and 3 to get to 2 under, while Patrick Reed bogeys the par-5 14th to slip to 1 under.
• • •
Hole No. 12: Par 4, 419 yards
Big save for Tiger Woods on his second hole of the day to maintain the momentum an opening birdie can provide.
Off the tee: Foregoing the driver, Tiger finds his second fairway in as many chances today.
From the fairway: Another green found from the fairway, this time as Tiger leaves himself about a 10-footer or so for birdie.
On the green: Tiger's second birdie try of the day runs a bit long and he makes the short comebacker for par.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 1 under; T-8, 2 off the lead.
Elsewhere on the course: John Merrick is the first to 3 under with a birdie at No. 5 to take the lead outright. Justin Rose gets to 2 under with birdies at Nos. 11-12 for an early share of the lead. Zach Johnson does the same with birdies at Nos. 3-4.
• • •
Hole No. 11: Par 3, 150 yards
An impressive start for World No. 1 and FedEx Cup No. 2 Tiger Woods, as Henrik Stenson and Adam Scott make pars playing alongside him.
Off the tee: Tiger misses the green wide right here, and must make an up-and-down from the rough if he is to remain under par.
Around the green: From behind the green, Tiger pitches to inside 3 feet. He sinks the putt for a solid par.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 1 under; T-5, one off the lead.
Elsewhere on the course: Harris English and Charl Schwartzel birdie to join early co-leaders John Merrick and Patrick Reed at 2 under, while Graeme McDowell bogeys No. 13 to slip into the 1-under bunch.
• • •
Hole No. 10: Par 4, 458 yards
Tiger Woods is considered the favorite to win this season's FedEx Cup, but he's got to pass Henrik Stenson this week or next – and hold off all challengers. Here's the first of eight rounds that will determine the champ.
Off the tee: Tiger finds the fairway to start his round, leaving himself about 150 yards into the green.
From the fairway: Accurate again – and how – Tiger sticks his approach inside 5 feet for a solid chance to open with a birdie.
On the green: The short putt isn't a problem for Tiger, who converts on his first birdie opportunity of the day at Conway Farms.
• TIGER FOR THE DAY: 1 under; T-4, one off the lead.
Elsewhere on the course: The group of Brian Gay, Graeme McDowell and Patrick Reed make it look easy – all three open with birdies at No. 10. McDowell also birdies No. 11 to get to 2 under in a hurry, sharing the lead with John Merrick, who holed out from the fairway at the par-4 No. 3 hole for eagle. Reed also joins the lead with a birdie at No. 12.
• • •
Steve Stricker, Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Justin Rose all register as favorites, while Ernie Els, Chris Stroud, Scott Piercy and Kevin Chappell are players to watch at the BMW Championship.
Our David Dusek is on the range at Conway Farms for the BMW Championship. Take a look at the latest equipment that the world's best are using this week.
Forget for a minute that Tiger Woods has won five times this year; consider that three of them came in tournaments that ranked in the top 10 for toughest and deepest fields -- that's why he should be the current frontrunner for Player of the Year honors.
Despite saying all season that he likely would not play in the Tour Championship, Steve Stricker has made the decision to travel to Atlanta because of his current eighth-place standing in the FedEx Cup standings.
There are home games and then there are home home games. Luke Donald has the latter this week. He’s not only back in his adopted home area in suburban Chicago, he’s playing a PGA Tour FedEx Cup playoff event at his longtime home course of Conway Farms.
Unlike the other major Chicago tournament sites – Medinah, Olympia Fields, Cog Hill and Butler National – Conway Farms has an intimate feel. Expect a considerable spread in scoring this week, a rarity in modern tournament play.