Xander Schauffele, who started the day six back, is tied for the lead at East Lake

Christopher Powers
Golf Digest

Xander Schauffele was one of the many players at East Lake facing an uphill battle to catch Justin Thomas, who began the day at 10 under in the Tour Championship's new format. If Thomas' play carried over from Sunday at Medinah, he'd be a hard man to beat.

And yet, after just one round of play in Atlanta, Thomas finds himself in a tie for first following an opening round of even-par 70. Xander Schauffele, who began the day six back of Thomas, shot a six-under 64, immediately erasing the huge deficit and snatching all the momentum from Thomas. Now it's a tournament.

"You know, I have no idea how this whole thing works. I'm just kidding," said Schauffele, who won the Tour Championship at East Lake as a rookie in 2017, but not the FedEx Cup (Thomas won that).

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"Yeah, I think we just -- you know, we have a number. We have a seeding. It is what it is. I mean, that's how I'm taking it. I don't think there's -- I think everyone needed help from J.T. If J.T. went out and shot a pair of 65s, I don't think the TOUR would be very happy and I don't think the rest of the field would be happy. But it looks to be a good tournament so far."

Schauffele and Thomas are not alone at the top, they're joined by Brooks Koepka, whose three-under 67 was enough to climb into a tie for first, as he began the day at seven under at No. 3 in the FedEx Cup standings. Patrick Cantlay, No. 2 in the standings, remained at eight under, shooting even par with three birdies and three bogeys.

The other big movers were Rory McIlroy and Matt Kuchar, who each shot four-under 66s to get inside the top five. McIlroy vaulted to nine under, one off the lead, while Kuchar got to eight under.

"You kind of look at it more like a five-round tournament," said Kuchar. "The guys came in wherever they were, that was round 1 of 5. Even guys ten shots back. I was in a position six shots back, and you put me six shots back going into Sunday's final round, I feel like I've got a chance. You put me six back with 72 holes to go, I've definitely got a chance."

Up-to-the-minute leader board and other scoring information for the 2019 Tour Championship, Aug. 22-25, 2019, East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta, Ga.

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Originally Appeared on Golf Digest

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