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Len Ziehm On Golf

BMW opener was a round like no other for Day, Spieth

Thursday produced a great first round at the BMW Championship – but it was a strange one, too, and it’s not quite over.

Sound confusing? Well, it certainly was.

Jason Day, the top-ranked player in the third tournament of these FedEx Cup Playoffs, was cruising and his playing partner, No. 2-ranked Jordan Spieth, was showing the same signs of brilliance he had earlier in the season – before he started the season-ending four-event series with two missed cuts.

Day smacked a solid tee shot on their final hole, No. 9 at Conway Farms in Lake Forest, and so did Spieth. Then, without a drop of rain falling, weather sirens sounded to suspend play 4:22 p.m. Twelve minutes later a vicious storm pelted the course and at 5:15 PGA Tour officials opted to end play for the day.

So, Day has to wait overnight before know if he can shoot a 59. He needs to hole out from the rough 44 yards from the pin to match the score shot by Jim Furyk in the first BMW Championship played at Conway Farms two years ago.

“If I make it, I make it,’’ said Day, who had one eagle, nine birdies, six pars and one bogey before the weather hit. He is 10-under-par for the tournament, four strokes ahead of Daniel Berger who finished his round with a 65 and five ahead of Spieth.

Day wasn’t thinking about shooting 59 – a score posted by only six players in PGA Tour history – until Spieth reminded him at the No. 9 tee that Conway is a par-71 course. Most layouts are par-72s.

“I should have known, because there are only three par-5s,’’ said Day.“I’m playing good golf, but trying to not think about it.’’

The Australian won last month’s PGA Championship as well as the first of the FedEx Cup Playoff tournaments. Despite those recent successes Day put a new, lighter driver in his bag this week. It proved a good decision on Thursday, most notably on the still-to-be-completed ninth hole where he blasted his drive 20 yards further than any of the other players in the field.

Day was in the featured threesome with Spieth and Rickie Fowler. They’re ranked 1-2-3 in the FedEx Cup standings and they drew a big following on opening day of the $8.25 million tourney. The middle of the round was spectacular, and Day and Spieth matched great shots. From No. 18 (the last hole of their first nine) to No. 4 – a five-hole stretch, both Day and Spieth were 5-under-par.

At No. 1 Day holed a 77-yard bunker shot for eagle. Moments later Spieth’s 7-iron on a 196-yard par-3 dropped in for a hole-in-one. Spieth also chipped in on the next hole for birdie and made a third straight bird with a three-foot putt on the next.

Day wasn’t to be outdone. He followed Spieth’s ace with a 30-foot birdie putt at No.2 and added birds at Nos. 3, 7 and 8 before the storm. Weather worries led to the schedule being adjust for Friday. Day will hit his approach to the No. 9 green at 7:30 a.m. That’s when first-round play resumes.

Second-round play was to begin at 11:20 a.m. but the start was moved up to 9 a.m. because more bad weather is in the forecast for Saturday.

Two players who were able to finish their rounds on Thursday are serious challengers for Day. Daniel Berger, who holed out for eagle at No. 9 to complete his round, posted a 6-under-par 65, which puts his four strokes behind Day, and Brendon Todd, who hit only 10 greens in regulation, chipped well enough to get in with a 66.

Todd is solo third among the finishers but Spieth, Kevin Chappell and Justin homas are at 5-under and still on the course.

There was one sad side to the opening round. Furyk, the course record-holder, withdrew after six holes with a painful wrist. He said he was “very concerned’’ that he’d be able to play in next week’s season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta.