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Clark takes dead aim on easy East Lake

Rory Sabbatini, First Round, Tour Championship
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Tim Clark tied the course record with an eight-under 62.

ATLANTA (AP) — Given his choice, Tiger Woods likes to see a golf course as difficult as possible.

It didn't take long to figure out that wouldn't be the case Thursday at the Tour Championship, the final playoff event for the FedEx Cup that felt more like preseason considering the marshmallow conditions at East Lake Golf Club.

His wedge to the first green left more of a crater than a pitch mark. And after nearly making an ace on the sixth hole for his fourth birdie of the rain-softened round, a scoreboard showed Tim Clark already was 8 under and threatening the course record.

Clark was among only 10 players who finished the first round because of a three-hour storm delay that made the slow greens even softer, closing with three straight pars and still posting an 8-under 62 to tie the course record at East Lake.

"They're obviously not to the standard that we're used to on tour," Clark said of the greens. "Being one of the first groups out there was probably an advantage. We didn't have the footprints."

East Lake was incapable of challenging anyone in the finale to the FedEx Cup.

Only five players were over par when the first round was suspended by darkness, none worse than 1 over. Even though he tied the course record, Clark still only had a one-shot advantage over British Open champion Padraig Harrington.

Woods, who can capture the FedEx Cup and its $10 million prize with a victory at the Tour Championship, was at 4 under through 11 holes and could face the smoothness of greens that Clark and Harrington experienced.

"I made a couple putts — I don't know how," Woods said while loading his clubs into his car. "I hit them up there and they bounced all over the place and somehow went in."

Steve Stricker and Phil Mickelson, who are chasing Woods in the FedEx Cup, probably need to find another gear.

Stricker, playing in the final pairing with Woods, was at 1 over through 11 holes.

Mickelson was closer to the lake on the ninth hole than the fairway on the first hole with his opening tee shot, which led to bogey. He nearly hit another tee shot onto the street at the difficult fourth hole, where he took double bogey. But he steadied himself with three straight birdies to close out the front nine, and a birdie on his final hole of the day at No. 12 brought him back to 1 under.

He has to win to have any chance of capturing the FedEx Cup.

The first round will resume at 8 a.m. Friday.

Clark wouldn't even be at East Lake if not for a 67-67 weekend at the BMW Championship, where he tied for fifth and barely cracked the top 30 to qualify for the Tour Championship. He kept right on rolling, or at least slogging, through rain-softened conditions.

"Having a good Sunday round last week, I had a bit of confidence," Clark said.

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