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  • Johnson tied for lead at John Deere Classic

  • SILVIS, Ill. — It took years for Zach Johnson to feel comfortable at his hometown tournament.
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  • 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 why he's in early position to repeat as the champion of the John Deere Classic.
    Johnson shot a 7-under 64 and is tied with Camilo Villegas for the lead after Thursday's opening round of the John Deere Classic.
    It was the 17th straight round in the 60s at TPC Deere Run for Johnson, who grew up roughly 100 miles away in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
    Matt Bettencourt made the field as a late alternate and shot a 6-under 65. He's tied for second with Daniel Summerhays and Brendon de Jonge.
    Boo Weekley is among a host of players at 5-under 66, while three-time tournament champion Steve Stricker is at 4-under 67 heading into today's second round.
    "It's hard to believe that it's been a year. Yeah, I just kind of felt like you're just leading into the next round here," Johnson said. "I've just gotten so used to just everything about this tournament."
    It wasn't always that way for Johnson.
    Johnson finished 69th here five years ago after shooting 75 and 71 in the final two rounds — but he hasn't touched 70 since.
    Johnson, who was second in 2009 and third in 2011 before winning last year, topped his final-round 65 of 2012 by one stroke Thursday. He avoided bogeys while picking up birdies on five par-4s.
    "It just feels so natural now," Johnson said. 'It just feels very, very comfortable, much like my golf game — though I don't want to get overly content with the fact that I'm overly comfortable. So I've still got to go to work."
    Villegas was also 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," Villegas said. "I was very pleased with the way I handled myself out there. It was nice, relaxed, chill attitude."
    Stricker entered the tournament as a co-favorite with Johnson, having won at TPC Deere Run from 2009-11. Stricker quickly showed why he's considered the man the rest of the field could be chasing this weekend.
    He just couldn't keep it going for 18 holes.
    De Jonge began his day with the one of the best shots of the tournament so far, holing out from 88 yards for an eagle on the par-5 10th hole. But Stricker matched him on No. 10 just 20 minutes later — chipping in from 83 yards out.
    Stricker appeared to be in good shape as he made the turn at 4-under, but back-to-back bogeys helped put him three shots back of the leaders.
    The most unlikely name among Thursday's leaders had to be Bettencourt's.
    Sensing this week's field would be full, Bettencourt booked a flight to Salt Lake City for this weekend's Web.com event. But as he was sitting on a plane in Atlanta, the PGA Tour office called to tell him that he was eligible to replace Neal Lancaster.
    Bettencourt was stuck with a flight to Utah regardless. But he then flew straight to Chicago, rented a car and arrived in the Quad Cities just before midnight.
    Bettencourt didn't need any practice time though. He shot his best round at Deere Run since also opening the 2009 tournament with a 65.
    LPGA Tour
    At Waterloo, Ontario, Angela Stanford and Catriona Matthew shot eight-under 63s to share the first-round lead at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic, two strokes ahead of top-ranked Inbee Park.
    Park is trying to become the first golfer to win four straight LPGA Tour events since Lorena Ochoa in 2008.
    Park was joined by American Irene Cho, Spain's Belen Mozo and South Korea's Hee Young Park and Meena Lee at 65. American Ryann O'Toole and South Koreans Jenny Shin, Amy Yang and Ji Young Oh were three shots off the lead at 66.
    Defending champion Brittany Lang opened with a 69.
    U.S. Senior Open
    At Omaha, Neb., it's 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 Country Club.
    Kenny Perry shot a 67 in the morning, putting together a solid start in his bid for a second straight win in a senior major. Michael Allen and Jay Don Blake also were 3 under after their morning rounds, and Gary Hallberg, Mark O'Meara, Fred Funk and Lehman came in with the same score in the afternoon.
    The hilly 6,700-yard course took a toll on the field of golfers age 50 and older, especially in the afternoon as temperatures reached the upper 80s with a light breeze. The small and undulating greens browned up in the heat and proved dicey.
    European Tour
    At Inverness, Scotland, Phil Mickelson eased back into links golf with a 6-under 66 at the Scottish Open, leaving him behind two Englishman after a low-scoring first round.
    John Parry, ranked No. 471, held the clubhouse lead after a bogey-free 64 and Simon Khan (65) also tamed the Castle Stuart course in perfect morning conditions in the Scottish Highlands to finish alone in second.
    Mickelson is tied for third with six others after quickly hitting his stride in the warm-up event for next week's British Open, finding his range on and around the greens to produce six birdies and an eagle.
    Twenty-one years into a trophy-laden professional career, the four-time major winner insists there is still time for him to "conquer links golf."
    And his stylish opening round suggested a first win in Europe since 1993 could come either here or a few hours south in Muirfield next week.
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