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East Lake newbies off to surprisingly good start

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ATLANTA – East Lake has not been historically kind to first-time Tour Championship participants.

Thursday’s leaderboard was filled with a list of players who struggled in their first start at East Lake, including Dustin Johnson (27th in 2009), Hideki Matsuyama (22nd in ’14) and Jason Day (17th in ’10).

But there are exceptions.

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Of the seven first-timers in this week’s field, Kevin Chappell, is tied for the lead at 4 under, while Justin Thomas and Si Woo Kim are tied for fourth place, just a stroke off the lead.

“If you do your homework and you've got good ball control, I think you can play anywhere with that,” Chappell said. “It's always an advantage to know where the pins are and remember a putt that you had.

“Like for me, I'll refer to next year when I'm here, or the next time I get here. I'll refer to that pin on the last. I would rather be short left rather than past it left, and it would be a lot easier to get it in the hole.”

There have been just four first-time participants to win the Tour Championship. Henrik Stenson was the last to do it in 2013.