Feeling as though he had nothing to lose, Justin Rose put himself in position for a big gain with his best round of the year Thursday in the BMW Championship.
Rose made birdie on half of his holes at Cog Hill, a tough course that played even longer in chilly conditions, giving him an 8-under 63 and a two-shot lead over Webb Simpson and Mark Wilson.
"Didn't expect that going out there today," Rose said. "I looked to the weather, looked at the temperature, and I thought today was going to be a day to hang in there. Little did I know I was about to play so well — certainly my best round of the year by a long, long way."
Simpson remained hot despite the weather.
He won for the first time on the PGA Tour a month ago at Greensboro, then won again two weeks later in the Deutsche Bank Championship to move to the top of the FedEx Cup and assure himself one of the coveted top five positions at East Lake.
"Luckily, I was able to keep the momentum in the good stretch I had in Boston going into today," Simpson said. "We got off to a really good start and made a few really good saves there in the middle of the round and finished with a couple birdies coming in. It was a good day for the tough course and tough conditions we were facing."
Simpson made it sound simple, which is how golf can feel when a player is winning.
It wasn't that way for everyone.
Dustin Johnson, the defending champion at Cog Hill, sputtered at the start and then stumbled at the turn, making five bogeys for a 40 on his back nine for a 76. Jason Day had a 77, while Bubba Watson was wild off the tee and didn't make a single birdie in his round of 78.
Phil Mickelson was 4 over through five holes, but ran off four birdies and salvaged a 72.
LPGA: Jennifer Johnson shot a career-best 7-under-par 65 to take the first-round lead over teenager Lexi Thompson in the Navistar LPGA Classic in Prattville, Ala.
Johnson was 6 under on the back nine, with eagle on the par-4, 389-yard 15th hole and birdies on Nos. 10, 13, 17 and 18.
The 16-year-old Thompson is one stroke back after a 6-under 66, with Becky Morgan and Alison Walshe another shot behind. There is a seven-way tie for fifth at 4 under that includes Yani Tseng, the world's No. 1 player.
Thompson had seven birdies and one bogey. Her bogey came on the par-3 13th. Thompson, who had birdied Nos. 11 and 12, recovered to birdie Nos. 14 and 15.
Thompson is no stranger to success at the Navistar LPGA Classic. As a 14-year-old amateur in 2009, she was tied for the lead after two rounds before finishing 27th. Last year, as a professional, Thompson tied for 16th.