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Lethal when let off the Leish

Australian Leishman powers to two-shot lead at BMW event with 'making birdies' the only thing on his mind

Marc Leishman fired a nine-under 62 to take a two-shot first-round lead over Jason Day, Charley Hoffman and Jamie Lovemark at the BMW Championship - the US PGA Tour's penultimate play-off event - yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Leishman, 33, came into the tournament in seventh place in the FedEx Cup standings.

But, with his sizzling round at Conway Farms, he stole the spotlight from Jordan Spieth, who leads the play-off standings and played alongside Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson - who are right behind Spieth in the race for the US$10 million (S$13.5m) play-off series bonus.

Leishman set the tone with a birdie at the first, one of six birdies with one bogey on his front nine.

"I hit the ball really well, which is obviously what you have to do to shoot that score," Leishman said.

"But, probably more importantly, I putted well, I made the opportunities that I gave myself.

"When you play golf and all you're thinking about is making birdies, it's a lot easier than trying to not make bogeys," added Leishman, who picked up four more birdies coming in for a comfortable clubhouse lead.

Australian Day sliced into that lead with five birdies in a storming back nine.

Former world No. 1 Day, who this week announced that longtime coach Col Swatton would no longer serve as his caddie, rebounded from a bogey at the second hole with a birdie at the fourth and an eagle at the par-five eighth - where he landed his second shot three feet from the pin.

Day had a new caddie to carry his clubs, but was stuck with the same old troublesome back in the opening round yesterday morning.

Walking gingerly between shots, the former world No. 1 nevertheless swung with apparent freedom to card a 64 for a share of second place.

"It's just a little stiff in the back," said the long-suffering Day, who has been plagued by recurrent pain throughout his career. "I feel I have a stiff back every week."

After dumping Swatton as caddie in the run-up to the tournament, Day strode the fairways in the company of childhood friend Luke Reardon, who was working as a fill-in caddie this week.

Day said that Swatton, his mentor, coach and caddie since the age of 12, will stay on as his instructor.

"Luke did a fantastic job out there today," Day said.

"You never know whether you're going to gel. He's a good golfer, has got a keen golf IQ."

Spieth, runner-up in each of the previous two FedEx Cup events, had six birdies without a bogey to join a group that also included Spain's Rafa Cabrera Bello and Americans Keegan Bradley and Tony Finau.

Five-time Major winner Phil Mickelson headed a group on 66 after a bogey-free round.

Reigning FedEx Cup champion Rory McIlroy, who needs a top-four finish to advance to the Tour Championship next week and keep his hopes of defending the title alive, opened with a 72. - WIRE SERVICES