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Kevin Tway, Jamie Lovemark and Vaughn Taylor are tied for the lead at 5 under after the first round of The Northern Trust. That trio might not be notable (although they’re quite talented), but the floodgates open just beyond them. Trailing those three are major champions and big names all over the board.

  • Hideki Matsuyama: -4
  • Dustin Johnson: -4
  • Tommy Fleetwood: -4
  • Brooks Koepka: -4
  • Rafa Cabrera Bello: -4
  • Phil Mickelson: -3
  • Bryson DeChambeau: -3
  • Adam Scott: -2
  • Ian Poulter: -2
  • Justin Thomas: -2
  • Tony Finau: -2
  • Patrick Cantlay: -2

Whoooo boy, that’s an incredible group chasing the leaders. Tiger Woods is not among them as he opened with even-par 71, but this is what we expect from the first round of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, right? Only the top 125 make it, and nearly every big name entered the tournament. Still, this creates a four-event stretch where we almost exclusively get massive champions. Look at the payoff over the course of the existence of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

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That’s quite a list, and after one day in New Jersey, it seems as if it will add another huge name or top-ranked golfer. This is where the heart of enjoyment is for me. The best ranking of the top three on the leaderboard is No. 85, but the cascade of players below that group is both highly ranked and complete with pedigrees. The playoff events can be a life-changer for lower-ranked players (if they win), but because of how many stars show up at these tournaments, they’re usually not.

Here are four takeaways from Ridgewood Country Club on Thursday.

1. Phil Mickelson’s surprise: Lefty came in having had a terrific season replete with a win, but this is the time of year I often expect him to fade (he hasn’t made it to East Lake in three of the last four years). Mickelson strung together a 3-under 33 on the back nine, though, after going out in even par and is in contention after 18 holes.

2. Dustin Johnson’s triple: D.J. somehow shot 67 with a triple bogey on his card. Seven birdies and 10 pars will do that, I suppose, but what a bizarre round. It was made even more bizarre by the fact that the triple came on a par 5, which he usually dominates. Johnson stroked his drive out of bounds, though, and struggled from there to make 8 on the hole. He’s somewhat hilariously one back of the leaders.

3. Koepka looks strong: I caught most of the group of Koepka, Johnson and Thomas, and he largely picked up where he left off at the PGA Championship. The three-time major champion finished third in the field in strokes gained off the tee, 13th from tee to green and only putted OK. I get excited when guys contend after doing what they actually do well on a normal day. When players putt out of their mind or have their best driving day ever, that makes me nervous. Koepka can and should contend this weekend for what would be just his second non-major win on the PGA Tour.

4. Snedeker WDs: My pick to win this week (and last week’s Wyndham Championship winner) withdrew on Thursday with back spasms. The injury was initially reported as a chest injury but later updated.

“My back seized up Wednesday and I couldn’t complete the Pro-Am,” Snedeker said in a statement. “I thought I’d be OK to play today after hitting some balls this morning, but after consulting with the training staff, we feel it’s best to err on the side of caution.”

“After a week of rest, I look forward to coming back stronger than ever,” he said. “I wish all of my fellow competitors and the tournament an excellent week.”

Snedeker has struggled with a variety of injuries in the past few years, but this one seems initially like it won’t keep him out that long. He has a little house money to play with, too, after he moved up to No. 30 in the FedEx Cup rankings following last week’s win at the Wyndham.

CBS Sports was with you the entire way updating this story live with the latest scores, highlights and analysis throughout Round 1 of The Northern Trust but particularly when Woods is on the course. If you are unable to view the live updates below, please click here.

Thanks for stopping by.

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