The way Scottie Scheffler has played golf this season, giving him a two-shot lead to begin the Tour Championship doesn’t seem fair.

It’s about like spotting Trae Young the H-O-R-S in a game of HORSE. Or making an opponent start an at-bat against Max Fried with an 0-2 count. Or like giving the Falcons a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl.

The steady Texan, who already has won four times in 2022, kept the odds of capturing the FexEx Cup in his favor Thursday. On a mostly overcast day at East Lake Golf Club, Scheffler threw a tidy little 5-under 65 on the board to stretch his tournament lead from two to five strokes.

That matches the largest lead after any round since the “starting strokes” format was implemented in 2019.

“I’ve played some tremendous golf this year at times, and overall, I’ve had what I feel is a great year,” Scheffler said. “Just going to try and keep it rolling his week.”

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Scheffler’s round wasn’t without its travails. After losing momentum with a bogey on the ninth hole, the reigning Masters champion birdied the final three holes to move a big step closer to claiming the FexEx Cup title and its life-changing $18 million payout.

The closest threat to Scheffler is Xander Schauffele, who never has finished worse than seventh in five previous appearances at East Lake, won in 2017 and has a 67.3 stroke average. Schauffele shot a 66 to move into solo second and has been inside the top 10 in 18 of 21 rounds he’s played at the Tour Championship.

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Scheffler is playing the Tour Championship for only the third time and has only nine competitive rounds at East Lake. But he’s never shot worse than a 71 and has six rounds in the 60s.

Can he be caught?

“It depends on what Scottie does,” said two-time FedEx Cup champion Rory McIlroy, who overcame a horrendous start to shoot a 67 and is tied for sixth, eight shots in arrears.

“If I go out and shoot a good score (Friday) and Scottie has a lackluster day, then he brings a lot of guys in it, and over 36 holes anything can happen. Tomorrow is a pretty pivotal day for the rest of the field just to try to get a little closer to where Scottie is.”

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Thursday was a great day for scoring at the iconic old course. Despite a 15-minute brief downpour that sent the club’s SubAir greens system into overdrive and caused superintendent Ralph Kepple’s ground crew to squeegee water out of a few fairways and tee boxes, the scores were low. Twenty-one of the 29 players broke par, three shot even-par 70 and only five were over par. The average score was 67.897.

The low round of the day was a 6-under 64 posted by Joaquin Niemann and U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, one of nine first-time participants. Each one made eagle on the final hole, Niemann with a 19-foot chip-in and Fitzpatrick with a 13-foot putt. It left Fitzpatrick in third at 9 under and Niemann tied for fourth at 8 under.

Patrick Cantlay, the defending FedExCup champion, never got much momentum. He required an eagle on the final hole to finish at even par and dropped from second place into a tie for fourth, seven shots behind Scheffler. Cantlay is trying to become

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

the first player to win back-to-back FedEx Cups.

After a birdie on the third hole, Scheffler gained additional separation from the field by making a 17-foot putt for an eagle. It could have gotten worse had he received a break on the next two holes. His eight-footer for birdie on the seventh hole spun out, and his five-footer for par on the eighth hole hit the back of the cup and popped out.

His biggest mistake came at the No. 9, the penal par-3 that was playing 236 yards. Scheffler’s tee shot drifted right and fell into the greenside bunker. His escape flew long and found the thick stuff on the other side of the green, but a nice chip and a clutch nine-footer salvaged a bogey, and he turned at 2-under and a five-shot lead.

That seemed to slow his roll. He needed a clutch two-putt from 51 feet to save par at No. 10. He had to get up-and-down for par at No. 13 and No. 14.

But the magic returned at the end. He made a 15-footer for birdie at No. 16, an 11-footer for birdie at No. 17 and two-putted for birdie from 28 feet on the 18th after hitting an iron on the green from 266 yards away.

“It’s a bit strange, so that’s why I talk a lot about not looking at the leaderboards and stuff like that because if I try and go out and do my best and pretend like I’m trying to win a regular stroke-play event for four days, I think I’m going to be in a good position come Sunday afternoon,” Scheffler said. “So that’s the plan going forward.”