Matteson leads, Stricker lurks

2012-07-13 07:29

Illinois - Troy Matteson fired a sizzling 61 without a bogey on Thursday at the John Deere Classic on Thursday, but three-time defending champion Steve Stricker kept the first-round leader in his sights.

Matteson's 10-under effort on the par-71 TPC Deere Run course gave him a three-shot first-round lead over Ricky Barnes, who had eight birdies in a seven-under 64.

Stricker was among seven players sharing third place on six-under 65 after a round that included an eagle at the par-four 14th along with five birdies and one bogey.

Stricker holed out from 80 yards out in the fairway at the 14th, and then added two more birdies at 15 and 17. He missed a birdie attempt at 18 and tapped in for par.

He was joined on 65 by Robert Garrigus, Scott Piercy, South Korea's K.J. Choi, Brian Harman, Luke Guthrie and England's Gary Christian.

Matteson, who needed just 24 putts, arrived at his final hole, the par-four ninth, needing an eagle to reach golf's magical number of 59.

He admitted he thought about it as he stood in the fairway with 189 yards to the pin, instead he ended up making par from a bunker.

"I just ran out of holes," said Matteson, who equalled his career best on the US PGA Tour. He also carded a 61 in the 2009 Open, where he claimed the last of his two tour victories.

Matteson was especially pleased that the round came on Thursday, since he has struggled this season to get off to a good start in many tournaments.

"I've always been one of those slow Thursday players," Matteson said. "It makes for a lot of long Fridays, and then you have to work your way up during the weekend. It's always nice to get a good start."

Birdies are often plentiful at TPC Deere Run, which has seen at least one score of 62 or better every year since 2008. On Friday, only 46 players were over par as the field averaged 69.6 strokes.

"You'll have to be in the 20s (under par) to have a chance to win," Barnes predicted. "At most tournaments, when you're four-under through eight holes, you're in the lead or tied. Here, you have to keep up that kind of pace."

Leading first-round scores on Thursday in the $4.6 million John Deere Classic US PGA Tour event (USA unless noted):

61 - Troy Matteson

64 - Ricky Barnes

65 - Robert Garrigus, Scott Piercy, K.J. Choi (KOR), Brian Harman, Steve Stricker, Luke Guthrie, Gary Christian (ENG)

66 - Stuart Appleby (AUS), Tom Gillis, Bill Lunde, Chris DiMarco, Spencer Levin, Jimmy Walker, Bobby Gates, Duffy Waldorf, Ben Crane, Tommy Biershenk

67 - Lee Janzen, Chris Couch, Ted Potter, Rory Sabbatini (RSA), John Merrick, Patrick Sheehan, Chez Reavie, William McGirt, a-Patrick Rodgers, Nathan Green (AUS), Alex Cejka (GER), Dicky Pride, Hunter Haas, Jhonattan Vegas (VEN), Tim Clark (RSA), Ryan Moore, J.J. Henry, Martin Flores, Steve Wheatcroft, Chris Riley