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Northern Trust Open: Troy Merritt tops leaderboard; Tiger Woods struggles

By Connor Grott
Northern Trust Open: Troy Merritt tops leaderboard; Tiger Woods struggles
Tiger Woods hits his driver on the 10th hole tee in the first round of The Northern Trust golf championship FedEx Cup playoffs on Thursday at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey. Photo by Peter Foley/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Troy Merritt tied the course record Thursday at Liberty National with a 9-under 62 to grab a one-shot lead over Dustin Johnson in The Northern Trust.

Merritt carded a bogey-free round and sank nine birdies, his most in any round this season. His 62 was his lowest score posted this season, but one shy of his career low of 61.

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"It's nice to see putts go in early, especially from a little bit of length," Merritt told reporters. "It gives you confidence going forward the rest of the day and they just kept going in."

Merritt was the runner-up at the Barracuda Championship last month. A win this week would mark Merritt's third career PGA Tour victory, and his first since winning last year's Barbasol Championship.

Merritt is No. 72 in the FedEx Cup standings, with the top 70 moving on to the BMW Championship at Medinah next week.

Johnson drained four consecutive birdies in the first round for a 63. Kevin Kisner and Jon Rahm sat in third at 7-under, while Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau, Justin Rose and Webb Simpson each carded 65 for a share of fifth.

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Brooks Koepka, who has won four majors in the last three years, had only three birdies in the first round for a 70. Phil Mickelson opened with a 72, and Tiger Woods, playing in his first competitive round since missing the cut at the British Open last month, shot 4-over and landed near the bottom of the leaderboard.

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