Lee Janzen, Darron Stiles share 1st-round lead at John Deere Classic at 7-under 64

By Andrew Seligman, AP
Friday, July 10, 2009

leejanzenJanzen, Stiles share lead at John Deere Classic

SILVIS, Ill. — Lee Janzen had trouble believing it, too.

He saw shots flying all over, his scores rising like a weekend golfer’s, and he wondered: How did this happen?

Actually, he wondered how he managed to be so successful before everything went awry.

Two U.S. Open championships?

“It’s a heck of an accomplishment,” he said. “Some of the golf I’ve played over the last couple of years, I wonder how the heck I did it.”

This, however, was more like it.

Janzen stirred some memories and was tied with Darron Stiles for the lead after firing a 7-under 64 in the first round of the John Deere Classic on Thursday.

Janzen has not won on the PGA Tour since he captured his second U.S. Open in 1998, yet he’s in position after an impressive start at TPC Deere Run.

The 44-year-old was at 8 under after birdies on the 16th and 17th holes and played bogey-free golf until the 18th, when he hit a bunker and missed an 8-foot par putt. He was off the course by the time Stiles sunk a seven-foot putt for birdie on the same hole to forge the tie.

J.J. Henry, Matt Bettencourt and Dean Wilson were all one stroke off the lead at 65.

Last year’s winner Kenny Perry, who’s second on the money list, opened with a 68, while U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover and Zach Johnson shot 69. It was not a good day for David Duval, who finished with a 75 and was in danger of missing the cut after a surprising three-way tie for second at the U.S. Open last month.

This time, Janzen was the veteran turning heads.

“It’d be exciting; I would love to win,” Janzen said. “If it doesn’t happen this week, I still think that I’m capable of winning, and it won’t stop me from continuing to work on my game to get better.”

An eight-time winner on the PGA Tour, Janzen has just two top-10 finishes the past three years. He’s spent much of that time trying to repair his swing with Mike Bender after leaving Butch Harmon.

“I’m still hitting right-handed,” Janzen said.

That’s about the only similarity.

“I never had a struggle or challenge like I’ve gone through the last few years,” Janzen said. “So you know, garbage in, garbage out. I’ve got to undo a lot of bad stuff over the last few years on top of rebuilding my swing.”

The results have been slow to come.

One good sign for Janzen came in April at the Verizon Heritage at Hilton Head, when he opened with a 6-under 65 and finished in a tie for fourth. He got another boost on Thursday, when he made a late push to grab the lead.

He was at 4 under through 12 when he birdied four of the next five holes. His seven foot birdie putt on the par-5 17th put him at 8 under before his mishaps on the final hole. That created an opportunity for Stiles, the Nationwide Tour’s career money leader, and he two-putted from three feet for a bogey on the 17th before making up for it on the final hole.

“I’m going to look at that as opposed to the bogey on 17, take the birdie into (the second round) and keep that positive momentum going.”

The same goes for Janzen, who also cautioned: “It’s only Thursday.”

So he’ll wait before he declares himself back.

“It’s like starting over in some ways,” Janzen said.

Duval would probably like to call a do-over after this round.

Winless since the 2001 British Open, he simply was sluggish in his first start since that eye-opening performance at Bethpage Black.

“I just wasn’t as sharp mentally today,” said Duval, the world’s No. 1 player before a long decline. “Why? I don’t know. I just wasn’t. I didn’t think as clearly as I would like to. I made a couple of bad decisions that cost me.”

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