Johnson has 1st-round lead at Colonial after 64
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) – Zach Johnson stood behind the fourth green looking at his club and then the ball that rolled within 4 feet of the hole.
“I got lucky,” Johnson said about his second shot on the 244-yard par 3 – his 13th hole Thursday – after his tee shot went through the green and stopped in a clump of grass.
Three holes later, Johnson was so deep in a greenside bunker that he couldn’t even be seen from the other side of the green until he popped up to watch his blast over the ridge to 2 1/2 feet from the cup.
Those par-savers were part of a bogey-free 6-under 64 that gave him a one-stroke lead after the first round in the Colonial, where 20-30 mph wind with higher gusts whipped through the big oak trees lining the fairways.
“Today was great. I got off to a good start, just hit some quality shots. I didn’t put myself ever in a position that was too worrisome,” Johnson said. “I kept the golf course in front me. I attacked when I could attack. I had a couple of nice saves when I needed it. … I’ve got zero complaints.”
Jason Dufner, rookie Harris English, Tom Gillis and Kyle Reifers were tied for second.
Dufner won the Byron Nelson Championship last week, and both of his PGA Tour victories have come in the last four weeks. He started at Colonial with three consecutive birdies, was 5 under after a 10-foot birdie putt at the 174-yard eighth hole, then overcame two bogeys in a three-hole stretch.
Johnson opened with a 40-foot birdie putt at the 396-yard 10th hole on way to his 13th consecutive under-par round at Hogan’s Alley. He set the Colonial tournament scoring record with his 21-under 259 in 2010, when he had a pair of 64s in his last PGA Tour victory.
After hitting into a greenside bunker at the 435-yard 12th, he blasted to 9 feet to save par.
“The big putt that got me going,” he said. He then had four consecutive birdies, a span that included two par 3s and all the putts between 14-21 feet.
Sergio Garcia, the 2001 Colonial champ in the same group as Johnson, shot a 66 to match Chris DiMarco, Tommy Gainey and Andres Romero.
The 22-year-old English had never played a full round at Colonial until Thursday. That came three days after he shot rounds of 60 and 63 during a British Open qualifier at Gleneagles. That is a much more wide-open layout just outside of Dallas about an hour from Colonial.
“Three bogey-free rounds I have had in a row, which I’ve never done,” English said. “I’m playing solid golf and not really getting out of position. I’m getting my putter going. I’m hitting it to 15 or 20 feet a lot and seemed to be making a good many of those. It’s just been good.”
English, a winner last year on the Nationwide Tour as an amateur, has made 11 of 14 cuts in his first season on the PGA Tour.
Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion, hasn’t won since slipping on that winner’s plaid jacket at Colonial two years ago. But he has made all 12 cuts this year, with a runner-up finish at Hilton Head and a tie for second at The Players Championship in his three previous events.
Garcia had an eagle-3 at the 558-yard No. 1, getting him to 5 under through 10 holes. His only bogey came after hitting his tee shot at the dogleg-left third hole into a greenside bunker, and he saved par out of bunkers his last two holes. He hasn’t won on the PGA Tour in four years.
Defending Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial champion David Toms, in the group with Johnson and Garcia, had only one birdie in an opening 74. Last year, the 45-year-old Toms started with consecutive rounds of 62 to match the PGA Tour scoring record for the first 36 holes of a tournament.
Duner’s approach at No. 9 was just off the back fringe, and he chipped to 6 feet before his par putt circled the cup without falling. A 25-foot birdie attempt at No. 10 rolled over the right edge of the cup, then he bogeyed the 635-yard 11th hole when his third shot went in a greenside bunker and he then two-putted from 9 feet.
Dufner was playing with Matt Kuchar, who two weeks ago won The Players Championship, and Rickie Fowler, The Players runner-up who the week before that got his first PGA Tour victory at Quail Hollow.
Kuchar’s only birdie in a round of 72 came on the par-5 No. 1. Fowler birdied two of the last three holes for a 68.
“Decent. Not good, not bad,” Fowler said. “It’s nice to make two birdies in the last three holes and get back under par and give me some momentum.”
Divots: Masters runner-up Louis Oosthuizen shot 71, ending his round with an eagle by holing his approach from 117 yards at the par-4 18th. … Ben Crane’s round of 70 included six birdies, six bogeys and six pars. … Hunter Mahan, the only other two-time winner this season besides Dufner, shot a 69 with three bogeys. … Sean O’Hair withdrew because of a neck issue.