Patrick Cantlay watches his drive on the second hole Thursday during the first round of the Tour Championship in Atlanta. Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

ATLANTA — Patrick Cantlay met his goal in the first round of the Tour Championship on Thursday, and it had nothing to do with the score on his card or the size of his lead.

As the top seed in the FedEx Cup, he started with a two-shot lead over Tony Finau before even hitting a shot. He finished the warm, breezy day at East Lake at 3-under 67 with a two-shot lead over Jon Rahm.

This was all about playing another tournament round.

“I think being in the spot that I’m in, it would be easy to get ahead of yourself and easy to maybe stray from your game plan because you feel like you’re ahead,” Cantlay said. “And that’s just not helpful, so I’m not going to do that.”

Only four players had a better score, so it was a good day regardless of the format that allows player to start at various points under par depending on their FedEx Cup position.

Rahm began by chipping in for birdie, kept the round from getting away from him with a few key saves – one for bogey, one for par – and ran off four birdies over his last seven holes for a 65.

Cantlay, who started at 10-under par, moved to 13 under.

Five shots behind was Bryson DeChambeau and Harris English, and only one of them managed to pick up a little ground on Cantlay while delivering one of the more exciting moments.

That was English, who was headed in the wrong direction when he stepped to the tee at the par-3 15th over water, the second-toughest hole at East Lake, smashed a 5-iron from 224 yards and watched it drop for a hole-in-one – the first one since the Tour Championship first came to East Lake in 1998.

He followed with two more birdies for a 66.

DeChambeau birdied his last three holes to salvage a 69.

Finau, meanwhile, had a 72 and went from two shots behind to seven back.

EUROPEAN TOUR: Henrik Stenson shot a bogey-free 7-under 64 with seven birdies to join Kalle Samooja of Finland and Min Woo Lee of Australia in the lead after the first round of the Italian Open in Guidonia, Italy.

Eddie Pepperell, Scott Hend and Edoardo Molinari – who had a hole-in-one on the seventh hole – were each one stroke off the lead.

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