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Zach Johnson Shoots 67 at Tiger's World Challenge


Zach Johnson was one of the few players who broke par in the first round of the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge. The 36-year-old Iowan carded seven birdies and two bogeys Thursday for a 5-under 67 at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., to set the pace in the $3.5 million invitational event.

One stroke behind the 2007 Masters' champion and 2013 BMW Championship winner is Matt Kuchar, while three behind are Hunter Mahan and Bubba Watson.

"It was a good start," Johnson said. "Just a real solid day all around."

Tiger Woods, whose foundation is the beneficiary of the World Challenge, carded a 1-under 71 on a chilly day in Southern California. Woods, playing in his first event of the new season, opened with a bogey on the par-4 first hole but steadied himself with two birdies and pars the rest of the way.

Two-time Challenge winner and defending champion Graeme McDowell is tied for sixth after a 72 along with Jim Furyk. The 33-year-old McDowell offset four birdies with a like number of bogeys for his even-par score, the same configuration of marks as the 42-year-old Furyk.

The elite field includes just 18 players, all of whom are ranked in the top-30 in the world.

You wouldn't know that by some of the scores, however, as only five players broke par Thursday on a Sherwood layout that played tough. Going over par with 73s were Rory McIlroy, Bill Haas and Webb Simpson. Opening with 74s were Lee Westwood, Dustin Johnson and Jason Dufner.

Rounding out the leaderboard are Steve Stricker and Keegan Bradley with 75s; Ian Poulter and Jason Day had 76s; and 2013 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Jordan Spieth in last place after a 77.

On the day that South African icon Nelson Mandela died, several notable golfers expressed their condolences. Among them was Poulter, who tweeted about the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize recipient: "Just heard that Nelson Mandela passed away. Really sad news. Madiba May you rest in peace. What an inspirational man."

For all the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge scores, visit http://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html.