Rogash/Getty ImagesSeung-yul Noh, who is 21 years old, has already won on the European Tour.
NORTON, Mass. — Seung-Yul Noh was 7 when he learned to play golf, hitting balls on the beach near his South Korea home before school and finding a driving range in the afternoon when classes were over.
Like nearly every kid his age around the world, Noh’s idol was Tiger Woods. And on Friday at the Deutsche Bank Championship the 21-year-old fired a 62 that left him in sole possession of the lead and two shots ahead of his childhood favorite.
Noh, who birdied his last two holes to break out of the pack, took the development in stride.
"Golf is playing 72 holes, so plenty of holes left," the PGA TOUR rookie said. "Pretty good spot for those last two birdies, but feels not much different."
Noh’s round was one shot off the course record set by Vijay Singh in 2006 and equaled by Mike Weir two years later. He’s one stroke ahead of Chris Kirk, who made a clutch 12-footer on the final hole, to preserve his 63.
Woods, who had six birdies in a row on Friday, headed the group at 64. Jeff Overton got hot on the back nine, making five straight birdies to tie Woods in the morning wave, while Noh’s afternoon playing partner, Ryan Moore, went out in 30 and joined the two at 7 under.
"I hit a lot of good shots and on top of that, I putted well at the same time," Woods said. "It was a nice little combination."
Rory McIlroy, who ranked fourth in the FedExCup entering the week, is tied with Bryce Molder at 65.
“I definitely didn’t drive the ball the way I wanted to,” said McIlroy, who only hit four fairways on Friday. “… I drove it great last week at Bethpage and didn’t putt so well but this week it seems like I didn’t drive it so good today but putted well.
“If I just hit a few more fairways tomorrow, then hopefully, that’ll be the key to another good round.
The world No. 1 started with a bogey but made seven birdies the rest of the way, including three straight as he made the turn. Molder, who came in at No. 93 in the FedExCup and needs a good week to advance, birdied his final hole in a bogey-free day.
Nick Watney, who won The Barclays on Sunday and moved to No. 1 in the FedExCup, couldn’t get untracked in the first round. He shot 71 and was tied for 74th.