July 9, 2015 / 8:20 PM / 4 years ago

Thomas sets early pace at John Deere Classic

(Reuters) - Long-hitting PGA Tour rookie Justin Thomas birdied four of his last five holes to surge into an early one-shot lead in the opening round of the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Illinois on Thursday.

Jul 9, 2015; Silvis, IL, USA; Early leader Justin Thomas hits his putt on the ninth green in the first round of the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run. Thomas shot an opening round 63. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The 22-year-old American, shrugging off the disappointment of a poor finish to last week’s Greenbrier Classic, putted superbly on a cool day at the TPC Deere Run to pile up 10 birdies and just two bogeys for a sparkling eight-under-par 63.

Charles Howell III opened with a seven-birdie 64 to end the round a stroke in front of fellow Americans Daniel Summerhays, Robert Garrigus and PGA Tour veteran Steve Stricker, a three-time winner of the John Deere Classic.

Masters and U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth, the pre-tournament favorite who claimed his maiden PGA Tour title here in 2013, was among the day’s late starters.

Thomas rebounded in style from his closing 75 at Greenbrier last week where he had briefly led early in the final round after opening with scores of 67, 67 and 66.

“It’s probably more satisfying putting myself where I am after the first day (here) than what happened last week,” Thomas told PGA Tour Radio after taking just 26 putts in his round.

“It’s hard not to shoot really low when you make that many putts. I made just about everything I looked at today.

“I had two terrible three-putts too, which was crazy but it was a really good day.”

Stricker, 48, who has triumphed 12 times on the PGA Tour where he now competes on a greatly reduced schedule, was delighted to regain form on the greens after a surprising lean spell.

“I got off to a nice start, was hitting some really good quality shots and gave myself some opportunities,” he said. “And I putted better, that’s been my bugaboo this year.”

Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Larry Fine

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