Johnson takes early control at Tiger's event

Thu Dec 5, 2013 7:25pm EST
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

THOUSAND OAKS, California (Reuters) - Zach Johnson, with his renowned wedge game in sparkling order, soared to the top of the leaderboard with a five-under-par 67 in Thursday's opening round at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge.

Twice a runner-up in the elite 18-player event hosted by world number one Tiger Woods, American Johnson mixed seven birdies with two bogeys to take control on a sun-splashed but chilly day at Sherwood Country Club.

Compatriot Matt Kuchar, a double winner on the 2013 PGA Tour, was alone in second after a 68 while five-times champion Woods had to settle for a 71 after missing a three-foot birdie putt at the last.

Johnson, who finished second at the 2011 World Challenge, was delighted with his opening round after the scheduled start of play was delayed by frost for an hour.

"I did everything decent, drove it well for the most part with the exception of probably the last hole," Johnson, a 10-times champion on the PGA Tour, told reporters. "I wedged it really good.

"Any time I had a wedge in my hand, I seemed to be hitting my lines and my yardages, which is certainly key. I putted it great. Just a real solid day all around.

"I kept the course in front of me, I was aggressive when I needed to be aggressive and I was conservative when I needed to be conservative. But it's nothing more than a decent start."

BIRDIE BLITZ   Continued...

U.S. golfer Zach Johnson tees off during the Singles matches for the 2013 Presidents Cup golf tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio October 6, 2013. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes