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Merritt ties Northern Trust course mark

Reuters

Troy Merritt hits his tee shot on the third hole during first-round action at The Northern Trust on Thursday.

The Associated PressJERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — Troy Merritt isn’t obsessed with his position in the FedEx Cup and what he needs to advance in the PGA Tour’s postseason. He figures the best solution is good golf, and he delivered his best round of the year Thursday in The Northern Trust.

Merritt began with a 10-foot par save, followed with a pair of 20-foot birdie putts and took advantage of calm, rain-softened Liberty National by tying the course record with a 9-under 62 for a one-shot lead over Dustin Johnson.

It wasn’t a career low — Merritt twice has shot 61 on the PGA Tour — but it might have been his best round hardly anyone saw.

The storm was so fierce on the eve of the FedEx Cup playoffs opener that the public was not allowed in until 10 a.m., nearly three hours after the round began. And when the fans arrived, most of them were watching the action — what little there was — two groups behind him with Tiger Woods.

Woods, in only his third round since the U.S. Open, made double bogey on the shortest hole on the course, three-putted from 15 feet and had three bogeys from the fairway in a listless round of 75. Along with being 13 shots out of the lead, he was in danger of missing the cut for the first time in the FedEx Cup playoffs, which also would jeopardize a return to East Lake for the Tour Championship.

“We all knew it was soft out here with the rain last night,” Woods said. “I knew I had to go get it, post a low one, and didn’t do it. It’s certainly out there. Greens are soft. Fairways are soft. You can play aggressively and not have any real ramifications for playing aggressive.”

Johnson ran off four straight birdies near the end of his round for a 63, a good start in a tournament he already has won twice.

Kevin Kisner and Jon Rahm were at 64, while the group at 65 included Rory McIlroy and the suddenly hot Webb Simpson, who posted his sixth straight round of 65 or better dating to the final round of the FedEx St. Jude Invitational two weeks ago.

Merritt is No. 72 in the FedEx Cup, with the top 70 advancing next week to the BMW Championship at Medinah. Points are quadrupled in the postseason.

“I know good golf will take care of itself,” he said. “You just try to play the best you can. Obviously, I’ll be watching throughout the weekend, but just getting off to a good start, put that to the back of the mind and try to win a golf tournament.”

Trio share Scottish Open lead

NORTH BERWICK, Scotland (AP) — Jane Park, Anne van Dam and Mi Hyang Lee took advantage of calm conditions in the opening round of the Ladies Scottish Open, shooting 8-under 63s to share the lead.

Lee won the Ladies Scottish Open two years ago at Dundonald. The veteran Park and the rookie van Dam are seeking their first LPGA Tour victories.

Moriya Jutanugarn was one shot back on a day of low scoring at The Renaissance Club, a resort links next to Muirfield on Scotland’s East coast.

Su Oh, Caroline Hedwall and Chella Choi were another shot behind.

Defending champion Ariya Jutanugarn, winless since last year’s triumph at Gullane, opened with a 69.

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