Charles Howell III and Ollie Schniederjans posted matching 8-under 63s in the opening round of the John Deere Classic and share the lead after 18 holes at TPC Deere Run.
The 38-year-old Howell started both of his nines with back-to-back birdies (1, 2 and 10, 11), and in between added four more to finish with the best round of the day, a bogey-free 63.
“Here [TPC Deere Run] it’s about minimizing bogeys as much as you can and take advantage of the holes that you need to. With that said, there are still plenty of strong holes out here where you’ll take a par and run to the next one,” said Howell III.
The 24-year-old rookie Schniederjans was almost as impressive as Howell, with just a lone bogey on 18 (his ninth hole).
Two back of the lead, at 6-under 65, is a group of three players, headlined by Zach Johnson, who finished with seven birdies against just one bogey.
Johnson, a two-time major champion, and the winner of the 2012 Deere, is tied for third with Rory Sabatini, and Patrick Rodgers.
Afterwards, Johnson credited his iron play for the impressive performance.
“Shoot, I mean, I think my irons were probably the best part of my game today truthfully. A lot of good shots, solid shots. I got the ball in the fairway with my driver, but the irons were great,” commented Johnson, whose last PGA Tour win came at the 2015 British Open, nearly two years ago.
Wesley Bryan, who picked up his first PGA Tour title earlier this year at Hilton Head, is three shots back at 5-under 66, alongside Daniel Summerhays, Bryson DeChambeau, Chez Reavie, Trey Mullinax, Chad Campbell, and Brandon Hagy.
Daniel Berger, the top-ranked player in the field at No. 20, posted a 2-under-par 70.
Defending champion Ryan Moore was cruising along at 1-under through 12 holes, but then ran into trouble down the stretch (bogey-par-double bogey-par-bogey-par) to finish at 3-over and T130. Bubba Watson is at 2-under 70.
T1 Charles Howell III -8
T1 Ollie Schniederjans -8
T3 Rory Sabbatini -6
T3 Zach Johnson -6
T3 Patrick Rodgers -6
T6 Daniel Summerhays -5
T6 Wesley Bryan -5
T6 Bryson DeChambeau -5
T6 Chez Reavie -5
T6 Brandon Hagy -5
T6 Trey Mullinax -5
T6 Chad Campbell -5
- Bogey-Free Rounds: K.J. Choi (68), Bryson DeChambeau (66), Gonzalo Fdez-Castano (69), Charles Howell III (63), Kevin Kisner (69), Maverick McNealy (69), Patrick Rodgers (65), Boo Weekley (68).
- Withdrawals: Danny Lee withdrew after 18 holes, while Carl Pettersson withdrew after nine (wrist injury).
- Scoring Average: Early Groups: 70.18, Late Groups: 71.26
- Last Chance: This is the final event of The Open Qualifying Series USA, offering one spot to the leading player (not otherwise exempt) who finishes in the top five and ties.
Round One Video Highlights
“I’ve been feeling really about good about stuff. Maybe haven’t quite shown in the last couple weeks, but my body has been getting back in a good place. I had a little bit of a hiccup with my back. But my game also as well, being able to kind of work on that again. Had something click actually last week on Friday. I didn’t putt good, but I hit it nice and I felt really good about things heading into this week.”
–Ollie Schniederjans, John Deere Classic co-leader after round one
Credit: Getty Images, PGA Tour Media