• John Deere Classic, Round One

Stricker looking good again at John Deere

ESPN staff
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Zach Johnson started well in Illinois © Getty Images
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Bidding to win the John Deere Classic for the fourth successive time, Steve Stricker made a strong start to the defence of his title on Thursday.

The American, looking to win again at TPC Deere Run before hopping across the Atlantic for the Open Championship, carded a round of 65 to sit among the early pacesetters after round one - although he was nonetheless four shots off Troy Matteson's outstanding first round score.

Stricker looked to be struggling - well, by his standards - in the early part of his round, reaching the turn at level-par. But he turned it on over the back nine, finding four birdies and an eagle to leapfrog into an ominous position.

It was Matteson, however, who had the round of the day - firing a 61 to put him three clear of his nearest challenger.

The American made no mistakes all day as five birdies on either nine propelled him to the top of the leaderboard - with an elusive 59 even fleetingly within his grasp if he had managed to eagle the par-five 17th and birdie the 18th, but instead he could only manage a birdie and a par.

Ricky Barnes was the best of the rest at seven-under, with Robert Garrigus and KJ Choi level with Stricker in the group of players just a shot adrift of that after rounds of 65.

Stuart Appleby is five-under after the opening 18 holes, along with Chris Di Marco, Spencer Levin and Jimmy Walker.

Last week's winner Ted Potter Jr also got off to a good start, finishing four-under - along with the likes of Rory Sabbatini, Lee Janzen and Chez Reavie.

Zach Johnson, the in-form player in the field according to the FedEx Cup rankings, got his campaign off to a solid if unspectacular start as he reached three-under for the day.

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