(Reuters) - Bryson DeChambeau cruised to a four-stroke victory at the Northern Trust in the first round of the FedEx Cup playoffs in New Jersey on Sunday.
After seeing his lead shrink to two shots with a bogey at the ninth hole, DeChambeau responded with consecutive birdies on the back nine en route to a closing two-under 69 to finish at 18-under 266 for the tournament.
Tony Finau, who could join DeChambeau in the mix for a U.S. Ryder Cup spot, finished second with a three-under 68 to go 14-under and Australian Cameron Smith (69) and Billy Horschel (68) shared third a stroke back at Ridgewood Country Club.
The win, the third of DeChambeau’s career, moved the 24-year-old past world number one Dustin Johnson in the FedEx Cup standings.
“To be able to hold the lead, and to keep the lead for the whole time — I was getting a little close and a little tight there mid-round — and to be able to push forward there and make a couple of putts, was great,” DeChambeau told CBS Sports.
“Now I’m looking for consistency. If I can keep playing the way I am, I think I can do some great things.”
One would be playing in the Ryder Cup scheduled for Sept. 28-30 in France.
DeChambeau finished just outside one of the eight automatic spots for the U.S. team but has a good chance to be one of captain Jim Furyk’s final picks.
“Whatever happens, happens,” DeChambeau said. “I’m going to go try to play my best next week and see what happens after that.”
DeChambeau, who won the Memorial tournament in June, began Sunday’s round with a four-stroke lead and birdied the first two holes.
Bogeys at the third and ninth holes saw his lead fade to two strokes as Aaron Wise, playing ahead of DeChambeau, sank his sixth birdie at the par-four 14th.
But the challenge evaporated when Wise had consecutive bogeys while DeChambeau rallied with back-to-back birdies at his 12th and 13th holes.
Keegan Bradley, who shot a 62 on Saturday to challenge DeChambeau, crashed to a 78. He finishing 13 strokes off the lead but remained in the playoffs.
The top 100 in the FedEx Cup standings advance to the Dell Technologies Championship at the TPC Boston next week.
Tiger Woods will be among them despite a modest return to his first playoffs in five years.
He closed with a one-under 70 to finish at four-under 280.
“Today I felt great from tee to green,” said the former world number one. “I felt great over the putter. They just didn’t go in.”
Woods, whose putting woes troubled him in the first three rounds, estimated he had five putts lip out on a day when he had two birdies and a bogey.
Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina, editing by Pritha Sarkar / Ian Ransom