Rookie Justin Thomas shot 8-under-par 63 and was tied for the lead with Nicholas Thompson after one round of the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill.
Thomas, who shared the lead on the ninth hole in the final round of the Greenbrier Classic last week but struggled on the way home in a 74 to tie for 54th, on Thursday collected 10 birdies that included a 51-foot putt on the seventh hole and a 20-foot chip on the eighth.
“As much as it sucks to finish like I did (last week), it’s probably better for me in the long run,” said Thomas, who has finished in the top 10 on five occasions this season. “I’m going to learn more from a week like that, where I have been in contention, than I would being 40th to start the last day and shooting 6-under to finish 10th. I’m just going to keep sticking to my game plan and hopefully be there again on the back nine on Sunday.
“I played solid. I hit a pretty solid amount of fairways and greens and just made a lot of putts. It’s hard not to go decently low without making that many putts, and I did. It’s been a while since I’d seen that many go in, and hopefully I can keep that trend going.”
Thompson, older brother of LPGA star Lexi Thompson who is gunning for his first victory on the PGA Tour after capturing the 2007 HSBC New Zealand PGA Championship on the Web.com Tour, had seven birdies and holed his second shot from 81 yards for an eagle on No. 14.
Charles Howell III birdied the first four holes and two of the last three in a bogey-free 64 and was tied for third with Luke Guthrie, who had eight birdies but made a bogey at No. 18 to fall out of a share of the lead.
Steve Stricker, who has won the John Deere three times, posted a 65 and was tied for fifth with Robert Garrigus, Daniel Summerhays, Shawn Stefani and Steven Alker.
Spencer Levin of Elk Grove carded a bogey-free 66 and was tied for 10th with Zach Johnson, Boo Weekley, Michael Thompson, Robert Streb, Tom Gillis, Will Wilcox, Brian Stuard, Scott Pinckney, Carl Pettersson of Sweden and Robert Van Aswagen of South Africa.
Jordan Spieth, who won the John Deere in 2013 and will try to win his third straight major next week in the Open Championship at St. Andrews, was tied for 101st at 71.