The time for talking is almost done as the coronavirus-delayed 43rd Ryder Cup gets under way at Whistling Straits on Friday.

Europe head into the much-anticipated showdown with the United States as defending champions after winning 17.5 - 10.5 at Le Golf National in 2018.

This year's edition in Wisconsin promises to be as competitive as ever, with USA hoping their team of rookies can prevail against their more experienced European opponents.

Here, Stats Perform picks out the best of the facts and figures ahead of the first tee off.

 

EUROPE'S RECENT DOMINANCE

– This year's Ryder Cup is the 43rd edition, with nearly half of those (21) having pitted Europe against USA. Due to the tournament being delayed by a year by the coronavirus pandemic, this is the first Ryder Cup to be held in an odd year since 1999.

Europe have the upper hand with 11 victories since 1979, compared to eight for USA. There was a tie in 1989, which saw Europe regain the cup having won the previous edition two years earlier.

Europe have won nine of the last 12 Ryder Cups, including half of the last eight played on US soil.

– Six of the last eight Ryder Cups have seen a final score gap of at least five points. The gap was never more than three points in each of the previous eight editions (1987 to 2002).

– This year's Ryder Cup is the first to be played in Wisconsin, making it the 19th US state to host the tournament, with only California, Massachusetts and Ohio having played host on more than one occasion.

– Since 1979, only four of the 20 Ryder Cups have seen a team overturn a deficit going into the singles (1993, 1995, 1999 and 2012).

– USA have won 12 of the 20 singles sessions against Europe since 1979 (60 per cent). However, since 2002, Europe have the upper hand in the Sunday format, winning it six times in nine attempts.

Only two of the 42 Ryder Cups have ended in a tie: 1969 (16-16) and 1989 (14-14).

WESTWOOD LEADS THE WAY FOR EXPERIENCED EUROPE

– With a combined total of 156 matches played at the Ryder Cup, this is the most experienced European team since the 1995 edition (196 matches). Three players are making their debut for Europe: Bernd Wiesberger, Viktor Hovland and Shane Lowry, half as many as the US team (six).

– Fifty per cent of the European team are made up of English players (six out of 12). Since the introduction of Team Europe in 1979, that ties the highest number of English players after 2016.

– In Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm, Spain have a playing representative at the Ryder Cup for the 21st consecutive edition. In fact, other than England, they are the only nation to have had at least one player at every Ryder Cup edition since the introduction of Team Europe in 1979.

– Rahm – world number one and Europe's most recent major winner (US Open 2021) – is playing in his second Ryder Cup. He won only one of his three matches in 2018, but that was the singles match against Tiger Woods, only the American's second ever loss in the singles format after 1997.

Garcia is the highest points scorer in the history of the Ryder Cup (25.5 points out of a possible 41). The Spaniard is taking part in his 10th Ryder Cup – that's every edition since 1999 except 2010. It is also only the third time he has been a captain's pick after 2002 and 2018.

– Rory McIlroy is making his sixth consecutive Ryder Cup appearance (all since 2010), the longest current run among European players. He has played every single session at the tournament since his debut in 2010.

– Viktor Hovland is the youngest player at this year's Ryder Cup – he will be aged 24 years and six days on the opening day of the tournament. He is also the first Norwegian to play in the tournament.

– This is Lee Westwood's 11th Ryder Cup, joining Nick Faldo as the European player with the most appearances in the biennial tournament. If he plays at least four matches, he will overtake Phil Mickelson for the most in the tournament's history. Westwood is also the oldest player at this year's tournament.

HISTORY ON USA'S SIDE

– USA have six Ryder Cup rookies at this year's tournament, the most since 2008. In fact, they have won both previous editions against Europe where at least 50 per cent of their team was made up of newcomers: 1979 (eight rookies) and 2008 (six rookies).

– Eight of the 12 American players at this year's Ryder Cup are aged under 30, which is twice as many as the European team (four out of 12).

– Collin Morikawa is the youngest US player at this year's Ryder Cup – he will be aged 24 years, seven months and 18 days on the opening day of the tournament.

– Tony Finau's first Top 10 at a major came in the 2015 US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. He won two of his three matches in his only previous Ryder Cup appearance in 2018, setting the second-best points ratio (66.7 per cent) in the US team after Justin Thomas (80 per cent, four points out of a possible five).

– This is Brooks Koepka's third – and consecutive – Ryder Cup appearance. He won three of his four matches the last time it was held in the United States (2016).

– This is Jordan Spieth's fourth consecutive Ryder Cup appearance. He has collected eight points from a possible 11 in fourballs/foursomes, a 73 per cent scoring rate. Only Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have a better ratio among US players in the team format.

– At 37, Dustin Johnson is the oldest member of this year's US Ryder Cup team. This is his fifth appearance in the showpiece event, winning only one of his previous four (2016). He is the US player with the most matches played in the history of the tournament without a single half point (W7 L9).

– Bryson DeChambeau lost all three of his matches in his only previous Ryder Cup appearance in 2018. He was the only US player to remain scoreless alongside Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, whom he both partnered in 5 and 4 losses.

US Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker says the bubbling feud between top 10 pair Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka will be a "non-issue" at this weekend's team play event at Whistling Straits.

DeChambeau and Koepka have a history of trading public blows, having never hidden their dislike for one another.

Koepka called out DeChambeau for slow play in 2019, while the 2020 U.S. Open champion poked fun at the four-time major winner's physique in January last year.

DeChambeau's coach Mike Schy said this week that the 28-year-old wants to end the dispute, with that sentiment reiterated by Stricker prior to the Ryder Cup which starts on Friday as the US seeks to reclaim the trophy from Europe.

"It’s a non-issue, really, for me and the team," Stricker said. "We got together a few weeks ago and I’ve had conversations with them both.

"They have assured me it’s not going to be an issue. I have no worries whatsoever."

The US Ryder Cup team features 2021 Open Championship winner Collin Morikawa, 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay along with DeChambeau and Koepka.

Stricker unsurprisingly admitted that the latter two would likely not be paired together for the team play event.

"Will we pair them together? I don’t think so at this point but things could change," Stricker said.

"Could always happen but probably not. Again, I had a dinner; they all showed up. We had great conversation, great talks.

"I’m not seeing it as an issue at all and they are completely on board."

Stricker also revealed that 15-time major winner Tiger Woods will not attend the Ryder Cup this weekend as he continues his rehabilitation from his February car accident.

Woods, 45, sustained multiple leg injuries in the single vehicle collision accident.

"I think it’s just not a good time for him to be here physically because of where he’s at in his rehabilitation," Stricker said.

"It’s a tough course to walk. Everybody is going to see it, from tee-to-green, it’s difficult."

Woods has taken up roles at the past four international competitions with the US, including playing captain at the 2019 Presidents Cup and is passionate about team play.

"He's been obviously in my ear a lot and I call him pretty regularly," Stricker said. "He's part of our Ryder Cup team. He's part of what we do."

Stricker added: "He’s getting better and his focus and mine is on making a comeback to play again. We don’t want to get in the way of that because we would all love to see him come back and play."

Bryson DeChambeau wants to end his feud with Ryder Cup team-mate Brooks Koepka, according to the former's coach Mike Schy.

DeChambeau and Koepka have made their dislike for one another known since 2019, when the latter called out last year's U.S. Open champion for slow play.

World number seven DeChambeau duly responded by poking fun at Koepka's physique, with a leaked Golf Channel interview providing further fuel as the four-time major winner rolled his eyes as his rival walked behind the camera.

However, after Europe captain Padraig Harrington warned the pair could be a dangerous duo and the United States captain Steve Stricker tried to broker peace, coach Schy revealed his player's desire to end the hostility.

"Whether or not they are both doing it to maximise their global profile, Bryson [DeChambeau] wants it over," Schy told the Times on Monday.

"Move on. The bottom line is two big egos."

DeChambeau is set for his second Ryder Cup appearance at Whistling Straits on Friday, while Koepka will take part in his third as they look to stop Europe from retaining the famous trophy.

Schy says DeChambeau is desperate to succeed in the 43rd edition of the Ryder Cup after missing out on the Tokyo Olympics due to a positive COVID-19 test.

"He loves team play," Schy continued. "At times, when he’s struggling, it can look a little selfish, but the reality is he is doing his best to contribute."

Paul Azinger says Brooks Koepka should relinquish his place on the United States Ryder Cup team if he does not want to play at Whistling Straits.

Four-time major winner Koepka raised eyebrows when stating in an interview with Golf Digest that he finds the prestigious event "a bit odd" and "hectic".

The former world number one revealed he finds playing in a team event difficult to adapt to, as he is unable to get into a usual routine that he would have during a major tournament.

Azinger, who captained the USA to victory over Europe in 2008, says Koepka ought to give someone else the chance to play in Wisconsin if he is not fully committed.

"I'm not sure he loves the Ryder Cup that much," Azinger said during a conference call for NBC Sports.

"If he doesn't love it, he should relinquish his spot and get people there who do love the Ryder Cup."

Azinger added of Koepka, who has been troubled by a wrist injury: "Not everybody embraces it.

"But if you don't love and you're not sold out, then I think Brooks - especially being hurt - should consider whether or not he really wants to be there."

Azinger continued: "Brooks is one of the most candid, most honest guys there is, and if he's blatantly honest with himself and doesn't want to be there, he should come out and say it."

The United States start their bid to regain the Ryder Cup a week on Friday.

Four-time major winner Brooks Koepka has withdrawn from the Tour Championship due to a left wrist injury.

The world number 10 was well off the pace at one under for the tournament when he withdrew after making par at the 12th hole on the third day at East Lake Golf Club.

Koepka had hit a tree hoot on the 10th hole and appeared troubled afterwards, shaking out his left arm after hitting his tee shot on the 11th.

"Same wrist I had issues with back in '17, '18, so just making sure it's all good," Koepka said.

Koepka, who won the Phoenix Open in February, will receive prize money for finishing 30th at East Lake.

FedEx Cup leader Patrick Cantlay remains in the box seat after extending his lead at the Tour Championship to two shots after the third day in Georgia on Saturday.

Cantlay, who started the week at 10-under par as part of the new format, birdied the 18th hole to finish with a three-under round of 67 to be 20-under at East Lake Golf Club.

The 29-year-old American moved two shots clear of 2021 U.S. Open champion Jon Rahm, who had one bogey and three birdies in his round of two-under-68.

Cantlay had a dramatic round, after making three birdies on his front nine to move four strokes ahead, before he stumbled with three bogeys in six holes on his back nine, around three more birdies.

The BMW Championship winner holed a 23-foot putt on the 18th for birdie to restore the lead he held at the start of the week.

"I thought it was big for momentum," Cantlay told reporters after his birdie on the 18th. "It was a nice putt to make, especially being out of position on that hole. I'll take that momentum into tomorrow."

Cantlay is the only player to win three titles during the 2020-21 PGA Tour and remained confident he could close out the victory despite the inflated magnitude of what is at stake, with $15million prize money for the FedEx Cup Playoffs winner.

"The internal drive to win golf tournaments is really what drives me, and so the external factors are not as much of a factor for me," he said.

"I'm going to feel similar to how I feel most any Sunday when I'm coming down the stretch for a golf tournament because my drive to win is strong inside me. The other stuff is just a consequence of that. I don't play the game to make money. I play the game because I want to win golf tournaments."

Americans Justin Thomas and Kevin Na are next best at 15 under and 13 under respectively, ahead of Abraham Ancer and Billy Horschel at 10 under.

Thomas and Ancer both carded top rounds of five-under-65 on Saturday to move up the standings, while world number seven Bryson DeChambeau is nine under after a two-over-72.

Thomas would have recorded his first career bogey-free round at East Lake, if he had not missed a six-foot putt for par on the 18th.

World number two and reigning Tour Championship winner Dustin Johnson moved up to eight under with a two-under-68.

Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Xander Schauffele carded three under to also be eight under, alongside Jordan Spieth and Johnson.

Brooks Koepka announced his withdrawal from the Tour Championship, citing a left wrist injury.

FedEx Cup leader Patrick Cantlay ended the opening round of the Tour Championship two shots clear of world number one Jon Rahm in the season finale. 

Cantlay arrived at East Lake top of the FedEx Cup standings following his thrilling six-hole BMW Championship play-off victory against Bryson DeChambeau last week. 

Under the new FedEx Cup play-off format, Cantlay's third PGA Tour title of the season ensured he started the 30-man Tour Championship with a two-stroke advantage at 10 under, ahead of Tony Finau. 

Cantlay maintained that lead on Thursday thanks to a three-under-par 67 at the lucrative season-ending event in Atlanta, Georgia. 

The American golfer birdied the last to finish with four in total for the day, having dropped a shot at the fifth during his front nine. 

FedEx Cup hopeful Rahm matched the round of the day with his five-under-par 65 – the Spanish star recording birdies at his final two holes to earn outright second position, ahead of Harris English (66) and DeChambeau (69) at eight under. 

English had a day to remember after his hole-in-one at the par-three 15th hole, the American's second on the PGA Tour and first since 2018. 

With his ace-birdie-birdie run from the 15th to 17th, English – seventh in the rankings – became the first player to cover that stretch of three holes in four-under par in a round at East Lake during the Tour Championship. 

DeChambeau teed off in third position, three strokes adrift of Cantlay, and the 2020 U.S. Open champion slipped five shots back after mixing five birdies with four bogeys. 

Viktor Hovland (66), Cameron Smith (68) and 2017 FedEx Cup champion Justin Thomas (67) are on seven under, and six strokes off the pace, a shot better off than Kevin Na (66) and Finau (72). 

Defending FedEx Cup and Tour Championship winner Dustin Johnson ended the first day at five under following his opening-round 68, alongside Brooks Koepka (67), 2015 FedEx Cup champion Jordan Spieth (69), Abraham Ancer (69), Louis Oosthuizen (68), Jason Kokrak (67) and Billy Horschel (65). 

Rory McIlroy – a two-time FedEx Cup and Tour championship winner – made a hot start but faded in a two-under-par-round of 68. 

McIlroy was flawless with three birdies on the front nine, however, three bogeys to go with two birdies after the turn left the former world number one nine strokes behind Cantlay. 

Patrick Cantlay outlasted Bryson DeChambeau in a thrilling six-hole play-off to win the BMW Championship and secure the FedEx Cup lead heading into the season-ending Tour Championship.

In an absorbing battle for pole position in the finale of golf's lucrative FedEx Cup play-offs race, Cantlay birdied the sixth sudden-death hole to upstage DeChambeau in Maryland on Sunday.

Cantlay (66) had drained a long-range birdie putt on the 18th hole to force a play-off with DeChambeau (66) after the pair finished 27 under through regulation at Caves Valley Golf Club.

The duo traded clutch putt after clutch putt in the play-off before Cantlay prevailed, becoming the only player with three victories on the PGA Tour this season.

Cantlay will now head to East Lake as the FedEx Cup play-offs leader – the American will start the 30-man Tour Championship 10 under, while DeChambeau will begin seven under in third, a stroke behind second-placed Tony Finau.

The win also marked the first 54-hole leader/co-leader to go on to win on Tour since Phil Mickelson at the US PGA Championship – a span of 14 events.

"I just tried to stay in my own little world. When the reporters asked me this week, 'Are they going to get to 30-under?' I didn't think so but I felt like it today," said Cantlay.

"My game feels really good, it has for a while now since the Memorial. I'm finally starting to putt like me again and it's really nice."

The final round started with Cantlay and DeChambeau tied for the three-stroke lead and the pair extended that advantage to four shots by the end of 72 holes, ahead of Im Sung-jae (67).

Rory McIlroy – a two-time Tour Championship winner and two-time FedEx Cup champion – carded a final-round five-under-par 67 to finish outright fourth at 22 under.

The former world number one will be seeded 16th for Thursday's decisive event.

Reigning FedEx Cup champion Dustin Johnson (66) – 15th in the rankings – finished in a tie for sixth alongside Sergio Garcia (69), a shot behind Erik van Rooyen (65).

World number one and FedEx Cup hopeful Jon Rahm will start the Tour Championship in fourth position, dropping two spots, following his two-under-par 70.

Alex Noren (66) and Abraham Ancer (71) closed out the event 18 under, though the former still missed out on a top-30 berth at East Lake.

Justin Thomas (66) – sixth in the rankings – and Brooks Koepka (68) – 20th in the standings – finished 13 shots off the pace.

Bryson DeChambeau endured a wild third round, but the FedEx Cup play-off hopeful still ended the day tied for the lead alongside Patrick Cantlay at the BMW Championship.

DeChambeau carded a five-under-par 67 to earn a share of the three-stroke lead through 54 holes at the second FedEx Cup play-off tournament on Saturday.

The 2020 U.S. Open champion's round had a little bit of everything, from back-to-back eagles to back-to-back shots in the water at Caves Valley Golf Club in Maryland.

DeChambeau was flawless on the front nine, mixing two eagles and as many birdies as he turned a one-shot deficit into a three-stroke lead within two holes.

The 27-year-old is the fourth player to make back-to-back eagles this PGA Tour season, while he is only second to Cam Davis (20) for most eagles (19).

Just as DeChambeau threatened to run away from the field, the big-hitting American stumbled, settling for a share of top spot after finding the water at the par-five 12th hole (bogey) and par-three 13th (double bogey).

"It was definitely colourful," DeChambeau – projected to be second in the FedEx Cup points race – told PGA Tour radio. "Thought I played pretty well the front nine, did mis-hit a drive on seven.

"Felt weird. From then on out I wasn't driving it very well, so that's what I'm going to do, work on that for tomorrow. If I can get that straightened out like I did the first few days, off the tee the first couple holes today, I mean, I'll give myself a great chance again."

Cantlay – the current FedEx Cup leader – is also 21 under heading into Sunday's final round following his six-under-par 66.

He was almost bogey-free on day three, holing an eagle and five birdies before bogeying the last.

Im Sung-jae is the nearest challenger after his third-round 66, while Rory McIlroy (65), Abraham Ancer (66), Sam Burns (65) and Sergio Garcia (67) are tied for fourth at 17 under.

World number one and defending champion Jon Rahm lost ground, dropping to outright eighth – five shots back – after a two-under-par 67.

FedEx Cup champion Dustin Johnson posted a seven-under-par 65 to be 14 under, while Brooks Koepka (69) ended the day a further four shots behind – two strokes better off than Justin Thomas (69).

Bryson DeChambeau turned in a spectacular second round at the BWM Championship, shooting a career-best 60 Friday to rocket to the top of the leaderboard. 

DeChambeau carded a pair of eagles and eight birdies in a flawless round at Caves Valley Golf Club near Baltimore, Maryland, leaving him 16 under par for the tournament. 

Play was suspended due to darkness with 15 players still on the course, including first-round leader Jon Rahm. The second round of the FedEx Cup play-off event will conclude Saturday morning before the third round begins. 

Through the 15 holes he completed Friday, Rahm was one stroke back of DeChambeau at 15 under. Earlier in the day, Patrick Cantlay finished his round at 15 under after shooting 63. 

Sergio Garcia (67) and Im Sung-jae (65) were four back of DeChambeau at 12 under, while Hudson Swafford (66) was in at 11 under along with Sam Burns, who had one hole left to play. 

Rory McIlroy (70) was at 10 under with Abraham Ancer, who was four under for the round through 16 holes. 

The story of the day, though, was DeChambeau's run at a 59, which he said entered his mind after his eagle at 16.

He had putts for birdie at 17 and 18 but could not convert, saying his simply misread the six-foot putt on the last. 

Despite coming so close to the magic number, the American did not lament the final miss. 

"It's just one shot," he said. "There's plenty of holes where I could have made a birdie somewhere else not making it, I still executed a good putt, just didn't break the way I wanted it to. That's all I could ask for."

DeChambeau's previous low round was 62 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open last October and he was pleased to play as well as he did Friday. 

“It was an awesome opportunity," he said. "I had a couple birdie opportunities at 17 and 18, and it didn't happen but I’m still really proud of the way I handled myself, and it's great to feel some pressure again which is awesome.

“A lot of putts went in. A lot of things went right. We got a lot of great numbers out of the rough today, and I played my butt off and never thought too much about anything until the last few holes."

Elsewhere in the 69-man field, Olympic gold medallist Xander Schauffele (68) was at nine under, one shot better than Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama (69). 

Three-time tournament winner Dustin Johnson (70) was at seven under along with Brooks Koepka (67). 

Among those well back of the lead were Jordan Spieth (70) and Lee Westwood (70) at three under. Phil Mickelson was there, too, after completing just 13 holes Friday. 

Open Championship winner Collin Morikawa brought up the rear at three over for the tournament following a 75 that saw him card three bogeys and no birdies. 

Jon Rahm credited "Ted Lasso" for his magnificent display in the opening round of the BMW Championship as the world number one and defending tournament champion earned a share of the three-way lead.

Rahm carded a flawless eight-under-par 64 to top the leaderboard by one shot alongside fellow star Rory McIlroy and Sam Burns in the second PGA Tour FedEx Cup play-off event in Maryland, Baltimore on Thursday.

At The Northern Trust, Rahm appeared on track to claim the opening FedEx Cup tournament before fizzling out as the Spaniard fell short of a play-off in Monday's finish at Liberty National.

Rahm, however, bounced back at Caves Valley Golf Club, where he invoked the "Ted Lasso" mentality – the star character of the popular television show featuring Jason Sudeikis.

"I must say, for all those 'Ted Lasso' fans out there, be a goldfish," Rahm – second in the FedEx Cup rankings – said post-round after holing eight birdies without dropping a shot. "If you haven't seen the show, you've just got to check it out.

"Played great golf last week, just a couple bad swings down the stretch, and that's the most important thing to remember."

Former world number one McIlroy, who lamented fatigue prior to Thursday's first round, opened his BMW Championship campaign with an eagle, seven birdies and a bogey.

The 2016 and 2019 FedEx Cup champion enjoyed a bogey-free front nine, highlighted by the Northern Irishman's four birdies.

Burns, like Rahm, made it through 18 holes without dropping a shot as the American tallied eight birdies, including four in a row from the 11th to the 14th.

In a 70-man field, reduced from the top 125 points leaders at The Northern Trust, Sergio Garcia is one stroke adrift of the trio, while Abraham Ancer and Patrick Cantlay – fourth in the rankings – are six under.

FedEx Cup champion and three-time tournament winner Dustin Johnson ended the day five under following his first-round 67, alongside the likes of points leader Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele and Masters holder Hideki Matsuyama.

Cameron Smith, who lost to Finau in Monday's Northern Trust play-off, is four shots behind the leaders and he is joined by Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and 2017 FedEx Cup winner Justin Thomas.

Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka posted a two-under-par 70, while Jordan Spieth shot a 71.

Tony Finau ended his five-year wait for a trophy after winning The Northern Trust in a play-off against Cameron Smith.

The final round of The Northern Trust – the first of three FedEx Cup play-off tournaments – was pushed back to Monday after Hurricane Henri ruined the possibility of a Sunday finish in New Jersey.

Finau was not to be denied, however, as the surging American produced a comeback to capture his first PGA Tour title since 2016 with a par on the first extra hole after Smith drove out of bounds.

Trailing world number one Jon Rahm and Smith by two strokes entering the final round, Finau hunted down the duo thanks to a six-under-par 65 at Liberty National.

Finau got hot on the back nine, with an eagle and three birdies within a five-hole stretch catapulting him to the top of the leaderboard, alongside Australian Smith (67) at 20 under at the end of regulation.

Rahm missed out on a play-off following his final-round 69, which left him two strokes off the pace.

Finau is now projected to go top of the FedEx Cup leaderboard, ahead of Rahm and Smith heading into the BMW Championship, which will consist of a 70-man field.

"It feels amazing," Finau said after winning 1,975 days and 143 starts after his first victory at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open. "It took just about everything I had. We got to number 10 and I knew I had to get to 20-under, that was my goal starting the day.

"My caddy Mark said let's turn in the best nine we've had all week, and I was able to do it.

"I hit some clutch shots on 18, that's a tough golf hole. Man, I just fought and its pretty cool to be standing here again winning a golf tournament."

The PGA Tour has seen 14 consecutive events won by players that trailed after each of the first three rounds. The last player to lead following any round and go on to win was Phil Mickelson at the 2021 US PGA Championship.

American star and 2017 FedEx Cup champion Justin Thomas (70) finished tied for fourth – five strokes off the pace, while Bryson DeChambeau was five shots further back following his three-under-par 68 alongside rival and four-time major winner Brooks Koepka (74).

Former world number one and 2019 FedEx Cup champion Rory McIlroy ended the tournament seven under through 72 holes as Jordan Spieth's forgettable eight-over-par 79 left him one over for the tournament and in 74th position.

Jon Rahm claimed the outright lead following the second round of The Northern Trust, but the world number one was not completely happy as he voiced his frustration with the FedEx Cup play-offs format.

Rahm carded a four-under-par 67 for a one-stroke advantage at the halfway stage of the opening FedEx Cup play-offs tournament on Friday.

In a tie with Justin Thomas for the three-shot lead following Thursday's round, Spanish star Rahm ended day two alone atop the leaderboard at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey, where the top 125 players are competing.

Rahm – fifth in the FedEx Cup rankings heading into the first of three play-off events – has his fifth career second-round lead/co-lead on the PGA Tour, and third of the season.

He is yet to make a bogey through two rounds – it is the first time in Rahm's PGA Tour career that he has played the first 36 holes without a bogey (110th start).

Rahm, though, was irked at the end of play as he discussed the FedEx Cup format, which sees only one winner of the season-ending Tour Championship and FedEx Cup, having previously seen the possibility of separate champions.

"I don't think it's fair," Rahm said post-round. "I don't like that at all. No. I think you have the play-offs itself, and if you win the first two and if you don't play good in the last one ... you can end up with a really bad finish.

"I don't like it. I understand the system. And the way I was told by one of the PGA Tour officials, [if] I'm a Patriots fans and the Patriots win everything to get to the Super Bowl and they don't win the Super Bowl, you don't win the Lombardi Trophy, right?

"My answer was, they still finished second. They have to understand that golf is different. You could win 15 events, including both play-offs events, and [under the current system implemented last year] you have a two-shot lead. I understand it's for TV purposes and excitement and just making it more of a winner-take-all, and they give you a two-shot advantage, but over four days that can be gone in two holes, right."

Tony Finau's second-round 64 earned second position at 11 under, a shot better off than 2017 FedEx Cup champion Thomas (69), Keith Mitchell (64) and Xander Schauffele (62).

Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka (64) and former world number one Jordan Spieth (62) – second in the rankings – are four strokes off the pace, while Bryson DeChambeau is two strokes further back following his 65.

Rory McIlroy – the 2019 FedEx Cup winner – narrowly avoided the cut at one under following his 70, but defending tournament champion and FedEx Cup holder Dustin Johnson (72) failed to qualify the weekend alongside Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson.

Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas fired eight-under-par 63s to share the three-stroke lead after the opening round of the Northern Trust.

The 2021 FedEx Cup play-offs got underway at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey, with the top 125 players eligible to play the PGA Tour event on Thursday.

World number one Rahm (fifth) and 2017 FedEx Cup champion Thomas (ninth) – both in the regular-season top-10 rankings – set the early pace to end day one ahead of nearest rival Harold Varner III.

Rahm was flawless through 18 holes, recording eight birdies, including four of his last six, without dropping a shot, while Thomas birdied four of his last five holes to be level atop the standings.

It is the second time this season Rahm and Thomas have been tied for the lead following a round – both were T1 after day two of the 2020 Masters.

"It probably felt a lot tougher within us than it appeared outside, but at the end of the day, when you're striking it well, it's going to seem easier," Rahm said after enduring gusty conditions. "Scores are out there. We just showed it. That's mainly due to the fact of the softness of the greens."

Thomas holds his third 18-hole lead/co-lead of the season, tied with Sebastian Munoz for the most on Tour.

"It was nice to play well out there in those conditions," Thomas said. "It was very windy, which makes it tough to get the ball close to the hole.

"I had an eight to 10 inch [20-25 cm] putt I almost missed because of a wind gust. I stayed committed to every shot."

Adam Scott, Robert Streb, Mackenzie Hughes, Cameron Tringale, Tony Finau and Kevin Na are tied for fourth, four shots behind the leading duo, while Patrick Cantlay – third in the FedEx Cup standings – is a stroke further back.

Defending tournament and play-off champion Dustin Johnson ended the day seven shots off the pace after mixing four birdies with three bogeys.

Johnson played his round without a driver in his bag, having noticed a small crack in his club, though the American star did not have a backup.

Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka also shot a 70, while 2019 FedEx Cup winner Rory McIlroy settled for an even-par 71 alongside 2018 Northern Trust champion Bryson DeChambeau.

DeChambeau became the fourth player on record (since 1983) to make two or fewer pars and record a score of even-par or better on the PGA TOUR – Jarrod Lyle was the most recent to do so via his two-under 69 (two pars) at the 2011 John Deere Classic.

Former world number one and 2015 FedEx Cup winner Jordan Spieth – second in the rankings – shot a 72 as six-time major champion Phil Mickelson ended the round two over.

The 149th Open Championship concluded in thrilling fashion on Sunday as Collin Morikawa claimed the Claret Jug.

It was a fitting finale to a memorable tournament, which marked the return of fans en masse to watch golf's oldest major.

Royal St George's was bathed in sunshine for all four days and it was a joyous event for everyone in attendance.

Stats Perform's man on the ground said a fond farewell to the Kent links, but not before one last wander around the course.

SHELTER FROM THE WARM

The soaring temperatures made walking the course a test of endurance, and not everyone was keen to partake.

What few spots of shade there were soon became occupied by weary bodies, sheltering from the warmth of the sun.

The queues at the water refill points were longer than for the grandstands.

CELEB SPOTTING (TAKE TWO)

It may have been premature to share the story of a chance encounter with British comedian Michael McIntyre on Saturday, as Sunday heralded the arrival of an even bigger celebrity.

Milling around outside the entrance to the media centre, and somehow not surrounded by a large crowd of autograph hunters, was One Direction's Niall Horan.

He's a keen golf fan and can often be seen at the majors rubbing shoulders with the biggest names in the sport.

FLAGGING...

At the end of a long tournament, some members of the media pack wanted a morale-boosting moment, so waited patiently for Champion Golfer of the Year Morikawa to exit from the interview room in hope of an autograph or photo.

Two had souvenir flags with Open Championship branding, in the expectation Morikawa might take the time to sign them.

He bolted through the doors carrying the Claret Jug, saw his waiting fans, but had no time to stop, telling them: "Sorry guys. Maybe I'll see you later."

Oh, the disappointment. 

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