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The field at the John Deere Classic isn’t particularly top-heavy since the world’s premier players are taking time off in advance of next week’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
As a result, an opportunity has presented itself for some more unheralded names to make noise atop the leaderboard at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois.
On Thursday, that’s exactly what Steve Wheatcroft did.
Although Wheatcroft hasn’t logged a top-50 finish since March’s Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, he came out scalding hot in Round 1 at the John Deere and shot a career-low nine-under 62 to pace the field.
With everyone in the clubhouse, here’s how the top of the leaderboard looks through 18 holes:
- 1. Steve Wheatcroft, -9
- 2. Michael Kim, -8
- T-3. Johnson Wagner, -7
- T-3. Nick Taylor, -7
- T-3. Andres Romero, -7
- T-3. Joel Dahmen, -7
- T-7. Scott Brown, -6
- T-7. Francesco Molinari, -6
- T-7. Whee Kim – 6
A couple of names not featured on that list: Zach Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau.
The second-highest-ranked player in the field behind Francesco Molinariaccording to the Official World Golf RankingDeChambeau shot three-over par before he was forced to withdraw on the 16th hole because of an apparent right shoulder injury.
PGA TOUR @PGATOUR
Bryson DeChambeau has withdrawn from the @JDClassic with a right shoulder injury. https://t.co/VjI7QrToqJ
The 24-year-old, who won last year’s John Deere Classic to capture his first PGA Tour win, will now hope the setback isn’t severe enough to prevent him from teeing it up at the year’s third major.
Ryan Lavner @RyanLavnerGC
Bryson WDs from the Deere because of a right shoulder injury. Does TV interview with a wrap around his shoulder. “Hopefully by next week I’ll be ready to go.”
Will Gray @WillGrayGC
Injury timing for Bryson not great with @TheOpen on deck, but this was also a golden opportunity for him to get some breathing room in the Ryder Cup standings. Currently 8th and the only guy in the top 15 playing the Deere this week.
“It’s really unfortunate, especially with how well I was hitting it coming into this week,” DeChambeau said, per PGATour.com’s Cameron Morfit. “I don’t know. Life just throws you curveballs and you just got to work with them. It’s not fun.”
Johnson, meanwhile, salvaged his day following a sluggish start similar to that of his American counterpart.
Although he was one over when he made the turn, Johnson perked up and rolled in birdies at Nos. 2, 3 and 6 to produce a clean front-nine scorecard and build a bit of momentum entering Round 2.
Still, Johnson wasn’t thrilled with his overall performance.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of anything that was very positive out there,” Johnson told reporters, according to the Quad-City Times. “I got off to a poor start. Brought it back a little bit, but considering how I felt going into the day, it was frustrating.”
However, it would be foolish to bury Johnson based on one lackluster round.
The 42-year-old has seven top-five finishes in his last nine John Deere appearances, according to PGATour.com’s Jeff Shainincluding three second-place honors and a win in 2012.
Don’t be surprised if another big run is in order as Johnson tries to round into form with a second Open Championship in his sights next week.