Zach Johnson teed off as the defending champion at the John Deere Classic, and he quickly made it known that he wouldn't be giving up his title without a fight.
Johnson, who grew up not far from the Silvis, Illinois TPC Deere Run course, had a bunch of family and friends in attendance as he fired a seven-under 64.
That was not good enough to earn him sole possession of the lead, though. Camilo Villegas posted another solid first round in 2013 to grab a share of the lead.
Neither man is running away with this event, however. Twenty-five golfers sit at four-under or better after the opening round of play.
Check out the leaderboard, and then I'll offer up a recap of the day's more notable rounds.
2013 John Deere Classic Round 1 Leaderboard
View the full leaderboard at PGA.com.
|T3||Brendon de Jonge||-6|
All stats via PGATour.com.
Zach Johnson's Title Defense Gets off to Strong Start
Johnson loves this course. He won here last year at 20-under, and he's ahead of that pace after one round.
Despite struggling for most of this year, his low round should come as a surprise to no one. It was his 17th consecutive round in the 60s at this course.
The event's Twitter account pointed out Johnson's hot start:
Zach Johnson's 64 matches his best start at the JDC. ZJ's 64 also matches his best start on @PGATOUR this season.— John Deere Classic (@JDCLASSIC) July 11, 2013
Johnson had been struggling off the tee heading into this event. But on Thursday, there were no such issues. He hit 13 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation. Combine that with his 2.695 strokes gained-putting mark, and it is easy to see how he shot a 64.
This putt on the par-four fifth highlights Johnson's sweet putting stroke:
Given his strong history at this event, Johnson taking this tournament wire to wire is not out of the question.
Here is a content Johnson after his successful round:
Camilo Villegas Is Beginning to Rediscover His Game
Villegas is starting to piece his game back together. The man know as "Spiderman" for his unique approach to reading putts has been struggling the past few seasons, but he may be turning the corner.
The fact that he is tied for the lead certainly points towards that. However, chances are, he will cool off from his hot start. PGA Tour helps highlight that with this tweet:
Camilo Villegas opened with 64 at the @JDClassic. This is the fourth tournament he's opened with 65 or better in 2013.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 11, 2013
Still, at some point, I have to believe Villegas will figure out a way to hold it together for four rounds.
My guess is that it won't happen at this event, however. Villegas was playing well, but he really benefited from his putting. He finished the day with a strokes gained-putting mark of 4.428.
The highest mark in that category for any of Villegas' PGA starts this year is 1.779, and he only has two tournaments this season where he has finished with a mark higher than .386.
In other words, his putting doesn't seem sustainable.
I'm rooting for him to hang in there; I just don't expect it to happen.
Steve Stricker In Strong Position to Reclaim His Throne
Steve Stricker has found a lot of success at this event. Johnson's win last year ended Stricker's reign as three-time defending champion.
Fellow pro Bo Van Pelt is fully aware of Stricker's fondness for this course:
Stricker, who teed off on the back nine with Zach Johnson, fired a four-under 67 to put himself well within striking distance of the lead. In fact, were it not for consecutive bogeys on Nos. 4 and 5, he'd be just one off the lead.
And with his short game working like it was on the par-five second hole, he has a good shot to chase down the leaders.
Stricker looks solid and sound. He is a great bet to be in contention at the end.
Checking in with the Pack at 6 Under
Brendon de Jonge, Matt Bettencourt and Daniel Summerhays all got off to a terrific start by carding six-under 65s. All three of them enjoyed bogey-free days on the course.
It would be nice to see one of the golfers in this group emerge with a victory. They all could use it. Only Bettencourt has a win out of this group, and that came in 2010.
De Jonge's best finish is second, and Summerhays has never finished in the top three.
With three rounds left and lots of birdies to be had, this tournament is in for a wild finish.