Aug 24 (Reuters) - It did not take long for Russell Henley to feel wide awake as he swiftly took the clubhouse lead in the first round of the Northern Trust in New York on Thursday.
On a day when Rory McIlroy and Hideki Matsuyama started poorly, American Henley teed off before 8 am and took advantage of smooth greens, rolling in three birdies in his first six holes on his way to a six-under-par 64 at the Glen Oaks Club in Old Westbury.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Henley told PGATour.com after making eight birdies in his first competitive round on the course.
He overcame his lack of local knowledge by playing conservatively and aiming for the centre of greens in a strong start in the first of the PGA Tour’s four FedExCup playoff events.
“I’m just not positive what’s up there,” he said. “I got some notes but I’m really happy with (the score). Greens were really smooth, so almost made a couple (of putts) early and rolled in a couple of five-footers and then just felt comfortable for the rest of the day.”
Henley, who won the Houston Open in April and made the cut in all four majors, led fellow American Scott Brown and Colombian Camilo Villegas by two strokes with half the field back in the clubhouse.
British Open champion Jordan Spieth made a decent start with a one-under 69, but McIlroy and Matsuyama struggled.
Defending FedExCup champion McIlroy shot 73, while world number two Matsuyama bogeyed four of his final six holes for 74.
World number one Dustin Johnson and last week’s Wyndham Championship winner Henrik Stenson were among those with late tee times. (Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Pritha Sarkar)