OLD WESTBURY – Russell Henley recorded eight birdies and holds a one-shot lead over Dustin Johnson after the first round of the Northern Trust on Thursday at the Glen Oaks Club on Long Island, N.Y. Henley finished the first round of the FedEx Cup playoff event with a 6-under 64 and edged Johnson, who finished strong by using his old putter following a shaky start.
Scott Brown, Chris Kirk and Camilo Villegas finished the round two shots behind Henley.
Henley was able to take the lead by playing conservatively and seeking out safe spots on the course. He is ranked No. 19 but needed a strong round to stay there and potentially move up.
“I don’t know what the key is, or the secret,” Henley said. “I just tried to hit the fairway, make sure I hit the green when I was in the fairway, and the greens are great and I rolled in a couple of putts.”
The 28-year-old Henley converted seven of his birdies from within 12 feet. His other birdie was an 80-foot shot on the fifth hole.
He also produced the lowest round at the Glen Oaks Club, surpassing the 6-under 66 by Adam Fuchs in the final round of last year’s Metropolitan Open.
Henley’s showing was the lowest first round at the Northern Trust since Kevin Stadler opening with a 64 at Liberty National Golf Club in 2013. It was the fifth time Henley shot a 64 in the first round of a PGA event and the second time he took a lead after an opening round.
Johnson recorded his lowest round since winning the Riviera in February. Johnson’s title there was the first of three straight victories leading into the Masters, an event he was forced to withdraw from due to a back injury.
PGA champion Justin Thomas fell behind early but finished with a 68.
Jordan Spieth posted a 69. Hideki Matsuyama, the No. 1 seed going into this round of playoffs, did not record a birdie and finished with a 74.
Rory McIlroy hit three bogeys on the back nine and shot 73.
Among those outside the top 100 in the FedEx Cup are Harold Varner III and Bubba Watson, who both shot a 67.
Phil Mickelson birdied his final two holes to get a 72 and is trying to show potential as a captain’s pick for the Presidents Cup. Mickelson has been on every Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup team since 1994.
“I would love to be on that team, but I’ve got to bring something to the table,” Mickelson said. “And, so, if I can play well this week and next week and show that
I’m playing as well as I know I’m playing … but the only thing that matters is the score. So I’ve got to go shoot scores. If I can do that and add something to the team, I would love to be on it.
Where: Progressive Field, Cleveland, Ohio
CLEVELAND – Chris Sale has yet to lose back-to-back starts and he’ll need to beat the team that was responsible for his worst outing of the season to keep that streak intact. Sale looks to atone for a rocky performance versus Cleveland on Aug. 1 when he takes the mound for the Boston Red Sox in Thursday’s finale of a four-game set against the host Indians.
A 14-game winner in his first year with Boston, Sale normally takes top billing for the Red Sox, although he will have to share the stage with newcomer Rajai Davis. Boston acquired the outfielder from Oakland on Wednesday, just hours after learning that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. suffered a sprained ligament in his left thumb in Tuesday’s game. The Red Sox own a 4 1/2-game lead in the American League East — the same margin Cleveland enjoys atop the AL Central despite being outscored 15-2 in the last two games of the series. The Indians will look to right-hander Trevor Bauer for a solid outing to help a patchwork lineup, minus four injured starters, that managed only three hits in Wednesday’s 6-1 setback
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, MLB Network, NESN (Boston), SportsTime Ohio (Cleveland)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Red Sox LH Chris Sale (14-5, 2.62 ERA) vs. Indians RH Trevor Bauer (12-8, 4.50)
Sale, who allowed four runs in a loss to the Yankees last time out, was roughed up for a season-high seven runs over five innings in a no-decision versus the Indians earlier this month. Prior to the loss versus New York, he was 3-0 and registered 63 strikeouts in six starts since the All-Star break. Francisco Lindor is 9-for-19 and Edwin Encarnacion 6-for-16 against Sale, who is 5-7 with a 4.44 ERA against Cleveland.
Bauer improved to 5-0 over his last seven appearances (six starts) by tossing 6 1/3 scoreless innings at Kansas City, which came two days after he was used for two-thirds of an inning in relief. He beat Boston at Fenway Park on Aug. 14, giving up three runs on three solo homers while striking out 11 batters. That win left Bauer with a 1-2 record and 8.79 ERA in four appearances (three starts) versus Boston.
1. Encarnacion has four homers against Boston this season.
2. Red Sox 3B Eduardo Nunez is 4-for-9 with two homers and seven RBIs in the past two games.
3. The Indians placed 2B Jason Kipnis on the disabled list but are hopeful 1B Carlos Santana can rejoin the lineup Thursday.
Where: Progressive Field, Cleveland