PGA Tour playoffs begin with Jordan Spieth leading after first round in Memphis

The Commercial Appeal photo by Chris Day via AP / Jordan Spieth walks off the 18th hole at TPC Southwind after finishing the first round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship on Thursday in Memphis. Spieth shot a 63 for a one-stroke lead in the opening event of the the PGA Tour playoffs.

MEMPHIS — Jordan Spieth kept a clean card and clean pants, even without having to roll them up to his calves on a rain-soaked course at TPC Southwind, where he opened with a 7-under-par 63 on Thursday for a one-shot lead in the FedEx St. Jude Championship.

Spieth chipped in for an eagle on the par-5 16th hole and made a key par putt on the 17th to take his first 18-hole lead on the PGA Tour since the Sony Open in January. He missed the cut the next day in Honolulu; that won't be possible in this event, because the 70-player field has no cut.

Even if Spieth was sharp in a bogey-free round, the start to the FedEx Cup playoffs was sloppy. With the ground already soaked from a wet week in Memphis, storms dumped two inches of rain in the early morning, causing a delay of just more than two hours and leading to players being sent off on both sides. The greens were soft but fast. The course as a whole was soggy and muddy.

It was not the best day to be wearing white pants.

Tom Kim, who knows a little about mud, probably should have known better. The 21-year-old from South Korea decided to roll up his pants to make them look like capris. He was briefly tied with Spieth until a late bogey sent him to a 64.

"I didn't want to get myself dirty," Kim said. "Just don't like it. I've had a really bad week once this year, so just trying to stay away from it, really."

It was more like one bad day in May during the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in upstate New York. He went into a marshy area to look for his tee shot, slipped and emerged with his shirt and pants covered in mud.

Kim is packing light for the three-week stretch that is the PGA Tour postseason, which continues with a field of 50 golfers at the BMW Championship next week near Chicago before closing at the 30-player Tour Championship in Atlanta.

"I had to make sure I was able to use those pants for a really long time, so I had to make sure they stayed really clean," he said.

Collin Morikawa had six birdies for a 65 to join Argentina's Emiliano Grillo two shots behind. That's $6,000 toward relief efforts from the Hawaii wildfires, because he has pledged $1,000 per birdie during the playoffs. Morikawa's grandparents were born in Lahaina on the island of Maui and once had a restaurant there on Front Street.

Spain's Jon Rahm had dirty pants and a scorecard to match. The No. 1 seed in the chase for the $18 million FedEx Cup bonus, he was going along fine until hitting his tee shot out of bounds on the par-5 16th hole and had to salvage a bogey. Two holes later, he drove into the water and nearly found the water again on his third shot at the 18th. That was a double bogey.

His front nine — Rahm started on No. 10 — wasn't much better with three bogeys, included a three-putter to finish, that led to a 73. Only three players had higher scores.

Rahm played alongside the next two top seeds, Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy, each posting a 67 that had them in the group tied for 15th. Scheffler was 2 over early and responded with six birdies over his last 12 holes.

"It's frustrating, obviously, when you see everybody is making birdies and you're 2 over through four or five holes," Scheffler said. "It was frustrating, but hung in there nicely and played some really good golf after that."

McIlroy was disappointed his score wasn't lower the way he hit it off the tee, critical on a day when players could lift, clean and replace their golf balls from the short grass.

"I don't know if I can remember a round where I've driven it that well, at least in recent memory," McIlroy said. "I drove it really well today and gave myself so many looks from the fairway. Sort of walking off the course disappointed with 3 under."

Chattanooga's Stephan Jaeger, with a 69 that had him tied for 41st, fared best among three Baylor School graduates in the field. Harris English and Keith Mitchell were just one shot back, two of seven golfers in 47th.

Spieth was good from start to finish. He had three birdies through five holes, made a few important par-saving putts, then saved his best for the chip-in for eagle.

"The pivotal holes where you get wedge in your hand, if you hit a nice drive, you're looking to attack," Spieth said. "I did hit the fairways on those holes, and that was important. Then the really hard ones, you're just trying to get it on the surface and tap in for par."

Spieth is No. 31 in the FedEx Cup standings, guaranteed to be among those who advance to the BMW Championship next week and are assured of a spot in eight $20 million signature tournaments next year.

The ultimate goal, though, is to reach the Tour Championship, so this becomes an important week for Spieth to get himself high enough in the standings.

Lucas Glover was at No. 112 until winning the Wyndham Championship last weekend, moving to No. 49. With that shot of confidence, he opened with a 66. Glover has never been a fan of the FedEx Cup playoffs or the points system, so he's trying to keep it as simple as possible.

"I think the state of my game, if I take care of me, I'm going to be there," he said. "That's how I like it — it's up to me. I'm not going to pull for or against the guy in 50th or 51st or whatever. I feel like if do my job, I'll be in Chicago next week. I think that's probably how it should be."