NORTON, Mass. (AP) — Troy Matteson showed up at the Deutsche Bank Championship with low expectations about his game and his immediate future in the FedEx Cup playoffs. He wound up with his best start of the year.
Despite a poor session on the practice range and a sloppy bogey on his opening hole, Matteson ran off seven birdies the rest of the way for a 6-under 65 that gave him a one-shot lead among the early starters at the TPC Boston.
Among those teeing off in the afternoon, most of the attention was on Phil Mickelson, who decided to try a belly putter for the first time in his career. He made the turn in 2 under.
Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, who chose to skip the playoffopener last week so he could rest in South Africa, and Jerry Kelly were at 66, followed by Nick Watney and Jason Day at 67.
Barclays winner Dustin Johnson had a 68 and was disappointed, for good reason. He made bogey on both par 5s on the front nine, hitting into the water at No. 2 and into the trees on No. 7.
Johnson is No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings and nearly assured at a shot at the $10 million prize at the end of the month.
That’s not the case for Matteson.
He came into this second playoff event at No. 97, knowing only the top 70 advance to the third event outside Chicago. There isn’t much pressure on Matteson, especially since he already has made enough money to lock up his card for next year.
“If I don’t play well, then I’m not going to play next week,” he said. “I look at it like the end of the school year. The end of the school year is almost here, so let’s just see what happens.
Your expectations probably lower a little bit. Then all of a sudden, you make a few birdies and it’s like, `Well, that’s not too bad.’ Then you make a few more.
“By the end of the day, you’re thinking, `Gosh, how in the world did that day turn out the way it did?”‘
The 65 was his best opening round of the year, and he can only hope it leads to better things. He had a playoff lost in Puerto Rico and only one other top 10 this year.
The biggest gallery of the morning belonged to PGA champion Keegan Bradley, who grew up in the area and was followed along by his father, his famous aunt — LPGA great Pat Bradley — and more friends and family than he could count. The ticket request was so great that he asked for 30 to 50 a day, and turned everything over to his mother.
Bradley opened with a 68, a good performance in front of a hometown crowd.
“It was a little more intense just because I want to play well in front of these guys, in front of my family,” Bradley said. “But I had a good round. I had such a good group today.
It was very relaxing.”
Schwartzel has a chance to become the third player in the five-year history of the FedEx Cup to win the $10 million by skipping the first playoff event. Tiger Woods did it in 2007, as did Jim Furyk a year ago, though not on purpose. He overslept and missed his pro-am time, making him ineligible to play The Barclays.
Schwartzel has a big finish to his year, so he wanted some time off. He didn’t think it was the worst idea, especially when an earthquake and hurricane hit New Jersey in the same week.
“I was sitting in South Africa in the sunshine and watching the guys struggle through the hurricane and all the things happening out here,” he said. “In that sense, it was maybe a good choice.
But by missing an event, you put yourself back a little bit on the back foot.”
Schwartzel started at No. 21 and slipped to No. 28 by not playing. He doesn’t know all the details of the FedEx Cup, only that a win in any of the opening three events will give him as good a shot as anyone at the big prize.
There wasn’t much movement around the bubble in the early going.
William McGirt, who barely got into the playoffs and barely made it through to Boston, opened with a 69 and kept alive his hopes of still playing.
One player whose season ended Friday was Scott Verplank, who has been battling wrist issues all year. He withdrew after a 78 and will not advance.
Kelly is at No. 47 and locked into the next playoff event. Ditto for Carl Pettersson at No. 49, though that didn’t make his round any less interesting. After three holes he already was 5 over for the day — a double bogey on No. 11 when he bladed a chip and three-putted, then a triple bogey on No. 12 when he tried to play a shot out of the hazard and it hit a rock.
Pettersson thought he might be penalized when he stumbled after the shot and put his club in the hazard. He was not assessed a penalty because it was to keep his balance, so at least he escaped with only a triple bogey.
The Swede played his last 13 holes in 7 under for a 69.
“I didn’t make a bogey,” he said of a round that included seven birdies, nine pars, a double bogey and a triple bogey. “That was some of the best golf I played all year.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)