On the range, Justin Thomas had no idea where the ball was going. Some five hours later, he had a share of the course record at Medinah.
Ultimately, all that mattered Thursday in the BMW Championship was taking a good step toward an important goal. Thomas already is set for the Tour Championship next week and the chase for FedEx Cup and its $15 million prize.
He made his first birdie after hitting a tree on the fourth hole, leaving him a 5-iron he hit to 2 feet. His last birdie was a putt from about 60 feet on the fringe from the back of the 16th green. He did enough right in between for a 7-under 65 and a share of the lead with Jason Kokrak.
One week after he withdrew with a mild oblique strain at Liberty National, Tiger Woods could only manage a 71 that felt feeble compared with everyone else. All but two players in the 69-man field were at par or better on a Medinah course that was soft from bursts of rain earlier in the week.
Woods is projected to need a top 10 this week to advance to East Lake, where he is defending champion. After one round, he was tied for 50th.
Kokrak played the par 5s in 5 under — including an eagle on No. 10 when he holed a 30-yard shot from the rough — and made only one bogey.
Kokrak, who has never won in 207 starts as a pro on the PGA Tour, is No. 32 in the FedEx Cup. The top 30 after this week advance to the Tour Championship, where there will be a staggered start based on par for the final event.