Kyle Stanley upstages big names to take Tour Championship lead
Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both three shots off the lead at East Lake finale
Kyle Stanley hits a wedge on the fifth hole during the first round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Kyle Stanley marked his first appearance at East Lake by upstaging the big names to take the first-round lead with a six-under-par 64 at the Tour Championship in Georgia on Thursday.
Stanley, 22nd in the FedExCup standings, shrugged off a lack of course knowledge to compile seven birdies and one bogey in perfect conditions in Atlanta.
He leads the elite 30-man field by two strokes from fellow Americans Webb Simpson, Daniel Berger and Brooks Koepka, and Englishman Paul Casey.
FedExCup points leader Jordan Spieth recovered from a poor start to card a three-under 67 in the final event of the PGA Tour season. Justin Thomas, second in the standings, also shot 67.
The winner of the FedExCup on Sunday receives $10 million.
Stanley ran off four consecutive early birdies en route to his lowest score of the year.
“Obviously I’m happy with the round today,” he told Golf Channel.
“The key to this course, if you can get it in play off the tee you can score. I like the way the course sets up. I can play my fade off most of the tees.
“The Bermuda rough is very hard to play out of so I’ll just continue to try to hit fairways and greens.”
Stanley, 29, has won twice on the tour, including the Quicken Loans National in July. He has not made many other headlines, but knows he can compete with anyone when his putter is hot.
“I’ve been in a pretty good place on the golf course, off the golf course,” he said. “Ball-striking’s been pretty solid all year. Overall not a whole lot of weaknesses in the game.”
Spieth was relieved to end the day only three shots off the lead after starting, he said, by hitting several snap hooks.
“I felt like it was really a grind out there,” he told reporters. “The first four or five holes of the round I was all over the place.
“Three-under each round is going to be really solid around this course. I probably need to improve a little bit but I feel good where we’re at.”