Snedeker off to hot start at BMW Championship

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Defending FedEx Cup champion Brandt Snedeker got off to a hot start early Thursday at the BMW Championship, firing a bogey-free, 8-under 63 to take a one-shot lead. Here is the skinny on the first round at Conway Farms:

The leaderboard: Brandt Snedeker (-8), Zach Johnson (-7), Charl Schwartzel, Tiger WoodsSteve Stricker and Kevin Streelman at -5

What it means: It’s an encouraging sign for Snedeker, who before the Tour’s bye week had played seven events in a row, and 11 of the past 14. No FedEx Cup champion has ever gone on to play the Tour Championship the year after he won the cup, but Snedeker, a two-time winner this year, is now projected to be first in points.

Round of the day: Snedeker’s 63 included seven birdies in a row on Nos. 13-No. 1 (started on the back nine), the longest birdie streak on the 2013 Tour. Even more impressive, he required just seven putts over that stretch, holing three putts from off the green. In all, he finished with just 22 putts.

Best of the rest: Zach Johnson continued his superb play with a bogey-free 64, as he looks to improve on a recent record that has him finishing inside the top eight in five of his last six events. Seeing the course for just the second time, Tiger Woods’ round could have been even lower, if not for three misses inside 5 feet on Nos. 4, 6 and 8.

Biggest disappointment: Needing a top-seven finish or better to prolong his 2013 PGA Tour season, Rory McIlroy instead threw up a 7-over 78 to sit 67th in the 70-man field. At least he beat bubble boy Lee Westwood, who sank to an 80 and appeared to be favoring his back after the round. Deutsche Bank winner Henrik Stenson shot 1-over 72 and is projected fourth in points – pivotal, of course, because the top five heading into East Lake can win the FedEx Cup with a victory at the Tour Championship.

Biggest storyline heading into Friday: The weather will be the big story in the second round, when the low temperature is expected to drop into the mid-40s and the high will be only about 65. The wind will also gust up to 20 mph, and out of a different direction, making club selection even more difficult.