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Merritt (62) leads, Woods (75) stumbles at Northern Trust

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There were plenty of low scores to kick off the FedExCup playoffs, but the reigning Masters champ wasn't among them. Here's how things look after the opening round of The Northern Trust in New Jersey, where Troy Merritt leads and Tiger Woods finds himself near the bottom of the standings:

Leaderboard: Troy Merritt (-9), Dustin Johnson (-8), Kevin Kisner (-7), Jon Rahm (-7), Rory McIlroy (-6), Justin Rose (-6)

What it means: Merritt got off to a fast start in the early-morning hours when fans were not yet allowed on the course, and he kept it going once they arrived to grab an early lead. But as expected, it's a star-studded leaderboard behind him that includes a former tournament winner in Johnson and two former FedExCup champs not far off the pace.

Round of the day: Merritt won his lone Tour title back in 2015, but he was a runner-up last month in Reno and entered this week on the top-70 bubble for next week's BMW Championship. He's on the right side of the numbers after turning in a bogey-free 62, splitting his scorecard between birdies and pars including four birdies in a row on Nos. 11-14.

Best of the rest: Johnson won this event two years ago when it was played at Glen Oaks, and he's again in the mix after an 8-under 63 left him ahead of everyone but Merritt. Johnson has a WGC win and two major runner-up finishes to his credit this year, and he's again in the mix after a round highlighted by four straight birdies on Nos. 5-8.


The Northern Trust: Full-field scores | Full coverage | FedExCup standings


Biggest disappointment: It seems like it's going to be a quick stop in the Garden State for Woods, who still hasn't shown much spark since slipping into a green jacket four months ago. His latest setback was a lackluster, 4-over 75 that left him ahead of only one player among the 120-man field. Woods had five bogeys to go along with a double on No. 14, and he's now in need of something in the mid-60s simply to make the final cut of the season.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Johnson is likely to remain a factor, but keep an eye on McIlroy who opened with a 65 to go along with a slow start from points leader Brooks Koepka (70). McIlroy is second in the standings to start the postseason and could move into the top spot heading to Chicago with a strong finish this week.

Shot of the day: Sepp Straka holed a 137-yard approach for eagle on No. 4, only to follow with an eagle hole-out from the greenside bunker on No. 5. Unfortunately for the Austrian, there were few other highlights in a round of 2-over 73.

Quote of the day: "I've got to get into the red by the end of the day tomorrow, for sure." - Woods, who started the week 28th in points but is now projected to fall to 33rd, with only the top 30 after next week advancing to the season-ending Tour Championship which he won a year ago.