Jason Day, Rory McIlroy off to strong starts in race for No. 1

ByJason Sobel via ESPN logo
Saturday, September 5, 2015
ESPN

NORTON, Mass. -- With the world's top three golfers each having a chance to claim the No. 1 ranking at TPC Boston, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy started their Deutsche Bank Championship campaigns under par Friday.

Jordan Spieth? Not exactly.

On the heels of his victory last week at the opening FedEx Cup playoff event, Day started his first round with three straight birdies before eventually cooling off to the tune of a 3-under 68 in tricky wind conditions that left scoring higher than usual at TPC Boston.

"The putts today, if they would have dropped, I would have shot a lot lower," said Day, who finished with five birdies against two bogeys. "But once again, I holed some good quality putts to keep the momentum rolling my way. Overall, it was a good day to get a 68 in. A very difficult day with the winds and pin locations."

McIlroy, who returned to No. 1 in the world despite skipping last week's event, was two strokes behind Day after a 1-under 70, though it was a pair of closing bogeys that were eating at him after the round.

"Tee to green was very good," McIlroy said. "Disappointed with the way I finished, but I felt tee to green, the way I drove the ball, hit my irons, for the most part it was very good. I had a couple of good up-and-downs as well. But I just need to tidy up around the greens a little bit. I had two three-putts out there. Obviously not very nice to finish with a three-putt."

Then there was Spieth.

Following last week's missed cut at the Barclays, the former No. 1 appeared content and confident entering the opening round. He had switched back to his old irons after having new ones in the bag last week and insisted he likes this golf course, one on which he has found success in the past.

Instead, Spieth posted a 4-over 75 that continued a troubling trend from the previous tournament.

In his first 76 rounds of the 2014-15 PGA Tour season, Spieth owned a scoring average of 68.96 with just eight rounds of 73 or worse. In his last three rounds, his scoring average is 74.00, and all three have been at least a 73.

Brendon de Jonge ran off seven birdies and finished with a 6-under 65, allowing the Zimbabwean to wonder if this might be the week he breaks through with his first win.

"It's been a tough stretch for me the last couple of months, unfortunately," de Jonge said. "I felt like my game was OK, but the scoring wasn't. And then, obviously, everything today sort of clicked."

De Jonge has a two-shot lead over nine players, including Rickie Fowler,Henrik Stensonand Luke Donald.

The second round will be played Saturday, with this tournament's traditional finish coming on Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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