Zach Johnson stays hot with 5-under 65 at Lytham

Zach Johnson hits a tee shot on the 14th hole during the first round of the 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club.

Zach Johnson hits a tee shot on the 14th hole during the first round of the 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club.

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LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England - When Zach Johnson won his only major title - the 2007 Masters - he did it by staying in constant touch with the leader from the first round on.

Shooting 1-under 71, Johnson was always on the leaderboard, never falling below fifth place even as the conditions worsened that week at Augusta National.

Since that victory, Johnson has only two top-10 finishes in major championships: 10th in the 2009 PGA Championship and T-3 in the 2010 PGA.

So when Johnson shot a 5-under 65 on Thursday in Round 1 of the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club - his lowest round ever in a major, by three shots - the possibilities of a second major championship on Johnson’s mantle seemed to gain some credence.

“For the most part, there's a lot of momentum coming from last week,” said Johnson, the winner at the recent John Deere Classic. “But I've forgotten about it. I don't think there's any reason to get too caught up in it. This is another championship, and there's no reason why I can't play well here.”

Johnson is not foolish enough to think that Thursday’s seven-birdie performance is easily repeatable. The nine-time Tour winner enjoyed relatively benign morning conditions in the first round, having teed off at 9:09 GMT. Johnson needs to follow the script that he laid out for himself, no matter the conditions for the rest of the week.

“Quality shots can turn into pars and eliminating doubles and with conditions like this, obviously an occasional birdie,” Johnson said. “So my whole philosophy this week is avoiding those fairway bunkers and hitting solid shots, because I'm putting fine."

After his victory at Colonial in late May, Johnson struggled with his game during the next month. But swing coach Mike Bender made the trip to Silvis, Ill., last week for the John Deere and caddied for Johnson, helping him correct some bad habits - mainly his hands being too low at address – plus his overall tempo.

In two days, Johnson was back to hitting the ball just like he was the week of Colonial, and he turned the John Deere week into a win.

But a major is a little different, especially the Open Championship .

“I played well here, but it's just one day,” Johnson said. “I'm going to grab those positive feelings I had last week. But for the most part, it's a new week, completely different elements, completely different golf course, and the beauty of it is solid shots over there in 95‑degree weather and solid shots in 60‑degree weather, they end up being very similar. The ball just doesn't go quite as far.”

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