Reuters: Justin Rose’s best round of the year and one of the best of his career could be the springboard to a $10 million payday for the Briton, who returned an eight-under-par 63 to grab the first round lead at the BMW Championship on Thursday.
Needing a strong result in the third-of-four playoff events to crack the top 30 of the FedExCup standings and clinch a spot in the lucrative season-ending Tour Championship, Rose came out all guns blazing at the Cog Hill Golf and Country Club with birdies on his opening two holes.
Playing the back nine first, the Englishman would pick up his only bogey of the day at the 13th then played error-free golf the rest of the way, carding seven more birdies to equal the tournament’s opening round record for a two-stroke lead on Americans Mark Wilson and FedExCup leader Webb Simpson.
“I certainly probably didn’t expect that going out there today,” Rose told reporters. “Certainly my best round of the year by a long, long way, and could have been top five, top 10 rounds I’ve ever played for sure.
“Struck the ball as good as I think I’ve ever hit it.”
Sitting just outside the top 30 when the day began, Rose will need to finish at or near the top of the leaderboard on Sunday to have a shot at the $10 million bonus that will go to the points leader after next week’s finale in Atlanta.
“I don’t know what I need to do,” said Rose. “I have the mindset I’ve got nothing to lose this week. That’s my strategy. That’s my attitude.
“Right now I’m not going to Atlanta. I’ve got everything to gain this week.”
Winner in two of his last three starts, Simpson brought his red-hot form to chilly Chicago with an unblemished six-under 65 while Wilson birdied the last hole to join the FedExCup leader at two back.
South Korean K.J. Choi carded a 67 to sit four off the pace, followed by American Jim Furyk, Australian John Senden and Colombian Camilo Villegas on three-under 68.
“It’s easy to get caught up and it’s easy to get thinking about $10 million and all that kind of stuff,” said Simpson, whose only career PGA Tour wins have come in the last month.
“The reason we were able to win is that we’ve got to do what we’ve set out to do.
“The more I think about how can we get better for tomorrow, the better I’m going to play.”
World number one Luke Donald, who began the day fourth in the FedEx standings, got off to a horrendous start with bogeys on the opening two holes and never recovered following up with a double-bogey at the fifth before stringing together 13 straight pars for a four-over 75.
Phil Mickelson also stumbled out of the blocks with a double-bogey at the second and bogeys at four and five but he recovered in style with four straight birdies from the ninth to get back to level par before a bogey at 18 left him at nine shots off the pace.