- Associated Press - Friday, August 22, 2014

PARAMUS, N.J. (AP) - Bo Van Pelt began the FedEx Cup playoffs by going fishing for stripers, which is not unusual for a guy living in Oklahoma.

Except that he was casting his line into the East River.

Presumably it was a little farther out from Manhattan. And no, Van Pelt did not eat what he caught.

“It was fun,” he said. “A buddy of mine invited me, so I was like, ‘I’ve got to take you up on that.’ … Maybe that was my good luck charm for the week.”

The real fishing trip began Thursday at Ridgewood Country Club, and Van Pelt snagged four birdies and an eagle, purely in the golfing sense. That was easy to digest because Van Pelt was in dire need of a good start at The Barclays.

Just over a month ago, he wasn’t sure he would be among the top 125 to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs, and thus keep his card. His game began to turn around with a couple of good finishes, and he started at No. 104. Only the top 100 advance to next week.

Van Pelt opened with three straight birdies, followed with 12 straight pars, and then went birdie-eagle-par for a 6-under 65 and a one-shot lead.

“As poorly as I played at the start of the year, I’m just kind of glad to be here,” Van Pelt said. “Things have been trending in a lot better direction. So I felt fortunate to be here with the position I was in three months ago. I just felt like if I kept doing what I was doing, hopefully I would at least get to next week and then kind of cross that bridge when I got there.”

No one was trending more than Rory McIlroy, who finally looked human in the first round.

McIlroy went wire-to-wire to win the British Open, giving him three legs of the career Grand Slam. He was right back to work a few days later, and then staged a comeback to win his first World Golf Championship. He went straight to Valhalla and won the PGA Championship, making the 25-year-old from Northern Ireland the third-youngest player in history with four majors.

Finally, he took a week off to have fun and celebrate his blockbuster summer.

And he paid for it. McIlroy felt out of sorts and opened with a 74, his highest start in two months. He was nine shots behind. And he wasn’t worried. As the No. 1 player in the world, and the No. 1 seed, he is assured a spot in the Tour Championship for the top 30 players.

McIlroy wasn’t about to lay down, either. He headed for the range to get his game back, which he’ll need to make the cut on Friday.

“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 tomorrow and shoot a good number.”

Van Pelt wasn’t the only player who started well.

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