From April to early July, few players had as strong a run on the US PGA Tour as Kyle Stanley did. He made eight of nine cuts during that span, including a T-8 at the Shell Houston Open, T-4 at the Players Championship, T-6 at the Memorial and his redemption victory at the Quicken Loans National.
Since that emotional win, we haven’t heard much from Stanley, having finished no higher than T-25 in his next eight starts, including the playoffs. Despite the struggles, he still produced a strong enough resume to earn a spot in the Tour Championship this week, where he entered at 22nd in the FedEx Cup standings. After posting a first-round six-under 64, he’s now projected at second, and holds a two-stroke lead at East Lake.
Stanley, 29, went flag hunting early in the round, knocking his approach to three feet at the par-4 third and rolling in the birdie. At the par-4 fifth, he stuck one to three feet again and picked up another shot. He holed seven birdies on the day, more than anyone in the field, with just one coming outside 18 feet. Through one round of play, Stanley ranks first in total strokes gained as well as strokes gained: tee to green. This week marks his first start in the Tour Championship.
Four players are two back at four under, including US Open champion Brooks Koepka, who posted the only bogey-free round of the group. Like Stanley, it seems as though Koepka has been quiet since his breakthrough at Erin Hills, but it’s more due to a limited schedule. He’s actually made all six cuts since, including a T-6 at the Open Championship and top 20s at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, US PGA Championship and last week’s BMW Championship.
Another US Open champion, Webb Simpson, is also at four under thanks to a 66 that featured three birdies, an eagle and one bogey. It’s his first start in the Tour Championship since 2014 and fifth overall.
Paul Casey and Daniel Berger are tied with Koepka and Simpson and four under.
Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm are among a group of five players who are three back after carding three-under 67s.
World No.1 Dustin Johnson shot a two-under 68 and is four off the lead.
Of the Australians, Jason Day carded 69 to be five off the pace and Marc Leishman a 71 to be seven behind.