5 Things: Johnson, Villegas fire 64s at John Deere
Zach Johnson and Camilo Villegas got off to hot starts at the John Deere Classic on Thursday, posting 7-under 64s to share the 18-hole lead at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill.
Here are 5 Things to take away from the first round:
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1. PICKING UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF: Deja vu, anyone?
Zach Johnson, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native who is playing a short drive from home, fired a 7-under 64 on Thursday, making an early statement as he attempts to defend his title at TPC Deere Run.
Thursday's round featured seven birdies against no bogeys – all in front of family and friends, leaving Johnson feeling relaxed.
“It just feels natural now,” the nine-time PGA Tour winner said. “I’ve gotten so used to being here that it just feels very, very comfortable now.
“When you are comfortable with the surroundings, when you’re comfortable with the peripherals (it helps). My routine has been the same here the last three or four years. We’re staying in the same place. I’ve got my family here."
The 64 was Johnson's 17th consecutive round in the 60s at TPC Deere Run, spanning four-plus years. Since 2009, he hasn't finished worse than T-21 in the Deere.
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2. SPIDERMAN POUNCES: Camilo Villegas is playing a limited PGA Tour schedule after failing to regain his Tour card at Q-School in December, but he is beginning to take advantage of his limited chances to earn it back through his play.
Villegas had eight birdies and a single bogey in a 7-under 64 to earn a share of the lead for the first time since the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic in 2012. Villegas had just 26 putts on the round.
“Made some great putts and just kept out of trouble,” Villegas said. “I was very pleased with the way I handled myself out there. It was a nice, relaxed, chill attitude, and I enjoyed every single bit of the round.”
Although this is his 17th start this season on Tour, he missed the cut in six of his first 10 starts on Tour, but since has made six consecutive cuts, including a T-10 finish at the St. Jude Classic and a T-16 in his most recent start, at AT&T National. He has five top-25 finishes on the season.
Villegas is No. 102 in the FedEx Cup standings, picking up $591,384 in earnings. He made $491,729 in 25 starts in 2012, finishing at No. 148 in the FedEx Cup.
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3. AMATEUR HOUR: In a field that features three amateurs, Stanford's Patrick Rodgers made the most noise Thursday.
The junior fired a 4-under 67, including four back-nine birdies, to sit T-13 after 18 holes. This is his third PGA Tour appearance, having missed cuts in last year's Travelers Championship and John Deere Classic.
Iowa junior Steven Ihm had six birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey in posting an even-par 71, while Alabama's Justin Thomas struggled to a 1-over 72 in one of the day's final groupings.
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4. STEADY STRICKER: In his first tournament since a fateful Sunday at the U.S. Open, three-time John Deere Classic winner Steve Stricker used an eagle, four birdies and a pair of front-nine bogeys to card a 4-under 67 to sit three shots off the early lead.
Starting on the back nine, Stricker made his eagle on his third swing of the day.
"It was a good start, a little disappointed that I didn't keep it going," said Stricker, who played with Johnson on Thursday. "A couple of silly bogeys at 4 and 5."
Stricker has not finished outside the top 5 in this tournament since 2006 - he didn't play in 2007 or '08 - and won three consecutive times, in 2010-12.
“When you can embrace the positives you had from the previous years, previous rounds, that’s great. However, you still have to really just stay in the present," Johnson said. "That’s what makes what Steve did that much more impressive. To take it to another level, that’s what makes what Tiger Woods has done over multiple years, on multiple golf courses, multiple events, repeating, defending, even beyond impressive.”
Now a part-time PGA Tour player, Stricker has two second-place finishes in 2013, four top 10s and five top 25s - all in only seven starts. He has earned more than $2.1 million and is 20th in the FedEx Cup standings - landing him on top of the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings this week.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Daniel Summerhays shot his fourth first-round 65 of the season, this one putting him one shot off the lead and in a three-way tie in third. . . . Davis Love III, fresh off his first top-10 finish of the season at Greenbrier, opened with a 4-under 67 to sit T-10. . . . Ryo Ishikawa tied his best first round of the season with a 3-under 68 on Thursday. . . . Jordan Spieth, 19, needs a win to earn a berth into the Open Championship, but fired a 1-under 70 on Thursday and is T-60 . . . Recent Florida graduate T.J. Vogel, the 2012 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion, made his professional debut and fired a 2-under 69.