SILVIS, Ill. — It took years for Zach Johnson to feel comfortable at his hometown tournament. These days, Johnson is more relaxed than anyone in the field — and that's a major reason he's in early position to repeat as the champion of the John Deere Classic.
Johnson, who grew up roughly 100 miles away in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, shot 7-under 64 and is tied with Camilo Villegas for the lead after Thursday's opening round of the PGA Tour event.
Villegas, a former Gator, was very comfortable on a course that proved player-friendly in the morning session. He converted a pair of par-3 birdie putts to highlight a strong day on the greens.
"Made some great putts and just kept out of trouble. The golf course is a little receptive, and you could be aggressive," said Villegas, who is playing a limited schedule after failing to regain his PGA Tour card at Q-School in December. "I was very pleased with the way I handled myself out there. It was nice, relaxed, chill attitude."
Matt Bettencourt made the field as a late alternate and shot 6-under 65. He was tied for second with Daniel Summerhays and Brendon de Jonge. Boo Weekley was among a host of players at 5-under 66, while three-time tournament champion Steve Stricker was at 4-under 67.
Champions: It has never been so crowded at the top of the U.S. Senior Open leaderboard. When Tom Lehman chipped in from 45 feet on the 18th hole, he joined six others at 3-under 67 for the first round at the Omaha (Neb.) Country Club. There had never been as many as seven co-leaders after the opening round of the event. The previous record was five in 1997. "In one round, 18 holes, it's like a sprint," Lehman said. "Over the course of four rounds, which is more like a marathon, things really do spread out. The field will thin out." Kenny Perry shot 67 in the morning, putting together a solid start in his bid for a second straight win in a senior major.
LPGA: Angela Stanford and Catriona Matthew shot 8-under 63s to share the first-round lead at the Manulife Financial Classic in Waterloo, Ontario, two strokes ahead of top-ranked Inbee Park. Park was joined by Irene Cho, Belen Mozo, Hee Young Park and Meena Lee at 65. Defending champion Brittany Lang opened with 69. Stanford closed her round with three birdies to join Matthew atop the leaderboard. Players took advantage of soft conditions early in the day. "We were pretty much able to attack the pins this morning," Park said. Tampa's Cindy LaCrosse and Tampa resident Kristy McPherson shot 1-over 72.
European: Phil Mickelson eased back into links golf with 6-under 66 at the Scottish Open in Inverness, leaving him behind John Parry (64) and Simon Khan (65).