The Tour Championship: The first round sets up for a great tournament

The first rounds of these big tournaments are a little like opening up Christmas packages. You wait for what seems an interminable period of time to find out what you got.

In the case of the Tour Championship, what was the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia, going to present the players with in terms of challenges? Who would rise to the occasion? So far it seems to be the only defense golf courses have anymore from these great players: firm fairways so the balls can run though and into the rough, thick rough so the players won’t have complete control of their balls and firm greens that don’t hold anything but the best shots.

But these are the best 30 players from this year’s PGA Tour season and they’ve seen this movie before. 

The No. 1 and No. 2 ranked players, Chris Kirk and Billy Horschel, were paired together and will be again on Friday. They both shot flawless 4-under 66s to take a 1-shot lead. Here’s the scoring rundown for the top of the leaderboard:

3-under – T3 – Patrick Reed, Jason Day, Jim Furyk and Bubba Watson

2-under – T7 – Cameron Tringale, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and Matt Kuchar

1-under – T11 – Ryan Palmer, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy

Even – T16 – Brendon Todd, Kevin Na, Morgan Hoffman and Russell Henley

The thing about this particular roster is that every one of these guys is coming in hot. Not only did they play well enough to get into the top 30, they are all pretty much in full stride. So as we await the second round, there’s no way to know who might go off…and in the third….and in the final round.

The transcripts of most of the top players were fairly stock answers to fairly stock questions. Most had to do with familiarity of the course, particular holes played well and stumbling blocks that kept the scores down. It was more about shots played and putts than any enlightenment about what enabled those shots or putts, the grist for this blog.

One charming departure from that was that Billy Horschel and his wife who are expecting in the next two weeks have decided that if she goes into labor, nobody’s going to tell him until he comes off the course. As a former golfer at the University of Florida, she understands the mental demands of competitive golf and wants him to be able to play freely.

They also both feel strongly that winning the $10 million for the FedExCup would so positively impact their lives that they don’t want to walk away from the rare chance to win it; only 30 guys get a shot each year and you never know if and when you’ll be back in that fraternity again.

The plan is that he will then hop on a charter to his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, spend a couple of hours with his wife and baby girl…and then fly back up to Atlanta for the next day’s tee time.

The other amusing piece of information that came out of Horschel’s media session had to do with the white on blue octopus pants he famously wore in the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion where he finished T4. It appeared for all the world that he was just flamboyantly drawing attention to himself, but it turned out that it was Ralph Lauren drawing attention to his clothing line:

“Going into the last day at Merion, I was — I think I was more nervous and more anxious about the pants I was going to wear (laughter) to tell you the truth.  I think those — wearing the octopus pants that Ralph Lauren had me wear, I think I was more nervous about the reaction I was going to get.  Because I got a lot of comments on Twitter about those.”

Anything for a buck. And this week, it could be 10 million of them.

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