John Deere Classic 2019: Roberto Diaz Leads by 2 Strokes After Round 1

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 12, 2019

CROMWELL, CT - JUNE 22:  Roberto Diaz tees off on the 14th hole during the third round of the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands  on June 22, 2019 in Cromwell, Connecticut.  (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
G Fiume/Getty Images

Roberto Diaz leads by two shots after the first round of the 2019 John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois.

A birdie on the par-three 16th hole moved Diaz to eight under for the round and putting him ahead of Adam Long and Russell Henley (both seven under) before he added another birdie on No. 17. Six golfers are in a tie for fourth at six under. 

Diaz got his day off to a great start, carding four birdies through his first five holes. His momentum stalled for the remainder of the front nine as he stayed at four under.

Then came Diaz's best shot of the round. Standing 99 yards from the flagstick on No. 10, he holed out for an eagle:

Diaz made his move on the leaders with a birdie on the 14th hole and his subsequent back-to-back birdies on Nos. 16 and 17. He headed to the 18th tee box with an opportunity to open even more of a gap on Long and Henley, but his second-shot approach ended that idea. His birdie putt came up short and left him with an easy finish to remain at nine under.

Consistency was Diaz's biggest strength, as he hit 12 of the 14 fairways and reached 14 greens in regulation, according to PGATour.com. He also gained 5.101 strokes from tee to green, which leads the field.

The 32-year-old is looking for his first victory on the PGA Tour. Maintaining his lead won't be easy over the next three days. At the very least, he left himself in a good position to earn what be only his third-ever top-10 finish.

Henley was one hole away from grabbing sole possession of second place. He sank a 55-foot birdie putt on No. 7 to move to eight under:

Following a par on No. 8, Henley sliced his drive off the ninth tee into the rough and needed three shots to get onto the green. He missed his par putt and had to settle for a bogey.

Long teed off at 7:40 a.m. CT and thus had to sit in the clubhouse and hope his seven-under 64 would hold up. He could've solidified his spot atop the leaderboard early in the day if his putter had been working. Long was 29th in putting strokes gained (1.436) and tied for 24th in putts per green in regulation (1.571), according to PGATour.com.

Matthew Wolff is a fresh off a win in the 3M Open, which was only his third event since joining the PGA Tour full time. He set himself up well in the first round and is five shots off the lead. While Wolff will likely struggle to make it two victories in a row, playing through the weekend and pushing for a top-10 finish would be an excellent result.

With the Open Championship teeing off July 18 at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Portrush, Northern Ireland, many of golf's top stars declined to make the trip to Silvis.

As a result, the field is wide open, especially with 40 golfers within at least five shots of Diaz.

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