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Byrd is trying to keep his season alive

Jonathan Byrd, First Round, BMW, FedEx Cup
Nam Y. Huh/AP
Byrd had eight birdies in his first round.

LEMONT, Ill. (AP) — Jonathan Byrd is playing for the fifth consecutive week, a stretch that began in 100-degree heat at the PGA Championship and has brought him to muggy conditions at the BMW Championship.

He is so tired that he has cut down his time on the practice range.

What has helped carry him through these PGA Tour Playoffs is knowing that when the Tour Championship ends next week in Atlanta, Byrd will be able to take a five-week break from golf.

First, though, he has to get to the Tour Championship.

Byrd got off to a good start Thursday, stringing together three birdies late in his round at ghostly quiet Cog Hill for a 7-under 64, giving him a one-shot lead over Justin Rose and Camilo Villegas.

Tiger Woods was poised to join the leaders until a double bogey on his 16th hole dropped back to 67.

"I'm the bubble boy this week, and I told my wife this is the worst bubble to be on,'' said Byrd, who is No. 30 in the playoff standings and can't afford to slack off at Cog Hill, even though the course southwest of Chicago had all the atmosphere of a library.

Byrd is trying to think more about winning the tournament than the points that come with it, and he has that experience from two months ago and a few hours south of Cog Hill. He won the John Deere Classic in July.

Rose reached 8 under through 11 holes before he dropped two shots coming in and had to settle for a 65, while Villegas recovered from his long bogey at No. 16 with a birdie on the next hole to also shoot 65.

Stewart Cink, Troy Matteson and Pat Perez were another shot back.

Woods, a three-time winner at Cog Hill, moved up the leaderboard with ease until his pitching wedge from the rough went over the green, leaving him a delicate chip to a downhill pin. His flop shot came up short, his next chip went 10 feet by and he made double bogey.

"I wasn't trying to get cute on it at all,'' Woods said of his flubbed flop, which went four paces. "It just went right underneath it.''

Byrd wasn't the only player desperate for good results. Villegas is at No. 34 in the standings, while Cink is at No. 32.

"Obviously, we're out here to win golf tournaments,'' Villegas said. "But I believe if I finish top eight, I will be in for next week. I'm trying to win the golf tournament, trying to hit one shot at a time, and it's not going to change the way I play out there.''

There were plenty of changes at Cog Hill that went beyond the golf.

The tournament, for years known as the Western Open, moved its traditional Fourth of July spot on the calendar to the third event in the PGA Tour Playoffs, held after Labor Day when kids are back in school and the Chicago Bears are about to start the NFL season.

Players were sent off in threesomes and the tee times were moved up to the morning because of the threat of rain. And with only 66 players in the field (four withdrew), all the golf was over in about six hours.

Remember that picture in 1997 when Woods, the 21-year-old Masters champion, approached the 18th green at Cog Hill with an army of fans walking behind him? He played Thursday with Steve Stricker and K.J. Choi before a crowd typically found at the old Disney Classic.

"This is about what we see for the pro-am,'' Woods said.

Byrd and Cink were playing two groups ahead of him, and that usually means getting distracted as fans scurry from one spot to the next. That wasn't an issue in the first round.

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