Bo Van Pelt plays his shot from the 17th tee during the first round Thursday during The Barclays at The Ridgewood Country Club. He finished 6-under 65 for a one-shot lead. (Darren Carroll / Getty Images)
Paramus, N.J. — Rory McIlroy took a week to celebrate his blockbuster summer and paid for it in The Barclays with his worst start in two months.
He could afford a day off.
That wasn’t the case for players like Bo Van Pelt and Paul Casey, and they picked a good time to produce good scores.
With no guarantee of playing beyond this week, Van Pelt opened with three straight birdies Thursday and chipped in for eagle late in his round for a 6-under 65 that gave him a one-shot lead in the opener of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Van Pelt is No. 104 in the FedEx Cup. Only the top 100 advance to the next tournament.
Casey is No. 118 with a lot on his mind — specifically the birth of his first child in two weeks — and played bogey-free at Ridgewood to join seven other players at 66.
That group included Brendon Todd, who is trying to get Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson’s attention as a possible wild-card pick; and Hunter Mahan, who at No. 62 is in danger of missing the Tour Championship for the first time since the FedEx Cup began in 2007.
Justin Hicks (Grosse Ile) is at 3-under 68 and Brian Stuard (Jackson) is at 2-over 73.
Ridgewood featured some of the deepest rough of the year, though the greens were soft enough to allow for birdies if players could keep it in the fairway. The average score was 70.8, with 44 rounds in the 60s.
McIlroy was not among them.
The British Open and PGA champion went 13 holes before he made his first birdie and finished with a 74. That ended a streak of 14 straight rounds under par, and it was his highest score in the opening round since a 74 in the Irish Open in June.
“Fatigue isn’t playing a part,” he said. “It’s I think just not putting the time in that I probably should have over the past week. And I think I allowed myself that and deserved that. But this is the consequence of it and I need to work hard this afternoon and go out and shoot a good number.”
McIlroy established himself anew as golf’s No. 1 player with a wire-to-wire win at the British Open, a come-from-behind win at a World Golf Championship and a late charge at Valhalla to win the PGA Championship and become the third-youngest player with four majors.
“I wanted to enjoy it for a week,” he said.
Van Pelt doesn’t have that luxury. He started his year missing seven cuts in nine tournaments before it slowly started to come around over the last month.
He felt he was heading in the right direction and received more confirmation Thursday.
Van Pelt didn’t make a bogey, and finished strong with a 10-foot birdie putt on the 16th and the eagle on the par-5 17th hole that put him in the lead.
“As poorly as I played at the start of the year, I’m just kind of glad to be here,” Van Pelt said.
Jim Furyk, Charles Howell III, Brendon de Jonge, Ben Martin and Cameron Tringale also were in the group one shot behind.
So Yeon Ryu set a course record with a 9-under 63 to take the lead at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in London, Ontario.
Ryu took a one-stroke lead over fellow South Korean Na Yeon Choi.