Steve Wheatcroft shot a career-best 9-under 62 on Thursday to take a one-shot lead in the John Deere Classic at Silvis, Ill.
Wheatcroft birdied seven of the last nine holes to finish a shot ahead of Michael Kim. Johnson Wagner, Nick Taylor, Andres Romero and Joel Dahmen shot opening-round 64s. Francesco Molinari, who won the Quicken Loans National two weeks ago, was among a group of players three strokes back.
Zach Johnson shot 69 and three-time John Deere winner Steve Stricker, and Edgerton native, finished at 1-under 70.
Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau, the highest-ranked player in the field, withdrew because of a right shoulder injury.
Wheatcroft hasn’t had a top-10 finish this season, and he’s 209th in the FedEx Cup standings. But Wheatcroft caught fire on the back nine, finishing with six straight birdies — including a 13-foot putt on the par-4 18th — for just his third round in the 60s this season.
Wheatcroft’s previous best scores on the PGA Tour were 64s at the 2012 Greenbrier Classic and the 2016 Canadian Open.
“I tried to keep the round going. I asked if we could just go to the first tee and start round two,” Wheatcroft said. “No, I don’t know if I’ve ever done that to finish a round. It was great. Yeah, I would just try to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Kim, who like Wheatcroft is buried deep in the standings at 161st, notched six birdies on the back nine. The 24-year-old former Cal star is also seeking his first career win.
“Been struggling with the putter a little bit, but (I) got a good mental note from the morning warmup (Thursday) and rolled it great,” said Kim, who holed three putts of at least 20 feet, including a 41-footer on No. 18.
CHAMPIONS: Kenny Perry and Mike Small shot 7-under 65s to share a one-stroke lead in the first round of the Constellation Senior Players Championship at Highland Park, Ill.
Bart Bryant, Glen Day and 2015 U.S. Senior Open champion Jeff Maggert were one stroke back in the fourth of five majors on the PGA Tour Champions schedule.
Defending champion Scott McCarron was in a pack at 5 under, while three-time Senior Players winner Bernhard Langer and Vijay Singh were another shot back at Exmoor Country Club. David Toms, coming off a win at the U.S. Senior Open, shot 2 over.
“I actually made some putts today,” Perry said. “I’ve had a tough year this year.”
Perry three-putted for bogey on the par-4 seventh and missed a 3-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th. Otherwise, his round was largely stress-free.
Small never has won on the PGA Tour Champions. And he didn’t really need to say what a victory in this event would mean.
“Well, that would be great, but there’s a lot of golf to go,” he said. “So yeah, that would be awesome. That’s what we’re here for. Everybody is here to win.”
EUROPE: American golfer Luke List equaled the Gullane course record with a 7-under-par 63 to start the Scottish Open. List moved into the lead with his ninth birdie on the 15th hole and held it to finish the round ahead by one stroke.
He was followed by five players in a tie for second; Rickie Fowler, Lee Westwood, Robert Rock, Scott Fernandez of Spain, and Jens Dantorp of Sweden.
Masters champion Patrick Reed was part of an eight-strong group a shot further back following a 65, with Danny Willett continuing his resurgence with a 66, and Olympic champion Justin Rose returning a 67.
On a day when almost 100 players broke par, five-time major champion Phil Mickelson, who won the 2013 British Open at nearby Muirfield, could only manage a level-par 70.
Suwannapura leads after first round at LPGA Marathon Classic
LPGA: Thidapa Suwannapura shot a 6-under-par 65 to take the first-round lead at the Marathon Classic at Sylvania, Ohio.
Suwannapura, who has three top-10 finishes in 117 career LPGA Tour events, birdied five of the final six holes, including the par-5 18th at Highland Meadows. The Thai player had her last top-10 finish in 2014 at the Kingsmill Invitational. Her best performance this season was a tie for 18th three weeks ago in Arkansas.
Seven players, including defending champion I.K. Kim and former No. 1 Yani Tseng, were a stroke behind at 66. Sei Young Kim, who shot an LPGA Tour record 31-under 257 to win last week’s event in Wisconsin, was four shots back.
SENIOR WOMEN: Elaine Crosby shot a 3-under-par 70 at Chicago Golf Club at Wheaton, Ill., for the lead after one round of the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
A winner of two tournaments in 17 LPGA seasons, the 60-year-old Crosby owns a one-shot advantage over Trish Johnson, Laura Davies and Liselotte Neumann.