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Johnson & Villegas Start Out Hot in John Deere Classic


Zach Johnson got off to a rousing start in defense of his title in the John Deere Classic. Playing on his "home" course at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., the 37-year-old fired a 7-under 64 to match Colombia's Camilo Villegas for the low opening round in the $4.6 million PGA Tour event.

Johnson, who beat Troy Matteson last year on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff, had a flawless seven-birdie performance Thursday. It helps that he's playing in front of family and friends at the course, which is near to where he grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The 2007 Masters champion enjoys the surroundings and local support.

"I have always felt comfortable here, regardless of my numbers," he told PGATour.com. "It just feels natural now," he said. "I've gotten so used to being here that it just feels very, very comfortable now. When you are comfortable with the surroundings, when you're comfortable with the peripherals (it helps).

"My routine has been the same here the last three or four years. We're staying in the same place. I've got my family here. The (John Deere Classic) staff does a great job of just letting me get into my game."

Villegas, a 31-year-old with three career PGA Tour wins - with his most recent at the 2010 Honda Classic, posted eight birdies, with his only dropped shot coming on the par-4 ninth hole. He took care of business Thursday on the greens, needing only 26 putts.

"Made some great putts and just kept out of trouble," Villegas told PGATour.com. "I was very pleased with the way I handled myself out there. It was a nice, relaxed, chill attitude and I enjoyed every single bit of the round."

One shot back are South Africa's Brendon de Jonge and Americans Matt Bettencourt and Daniel Summerhays. Posting 66s were Vaughn Taylor, Robert Streb, Jim Herman, Boo Weekley and Kevin Streelman.

Steve Stricker, a three-time champion in the Deere, was among a big group of players shooting 4-under 67.

Jonas Blixt, the winner in last week's Greenbrier Classic, opened with a 74.

For complete scoring details, visit http://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html.