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Slow start for Australians at John Deere Classic

Chalmers the best of the Australians but six behind the leaders (Photo: Bruce Young)
It has been a disappointing opening day for the Australians at the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Illinois with Greg Chalmers the best of the eight at the completion of round one.

Chalmers finished the day with a round of 69 to be in a share of 35th position, although six shots behind the opening round leaders, Charles Howell III and Ollie Schniederjans, who began their weeks with rounds of 63 to be one ahead of Rory Sabbatini, course specialist Zach Johnson, Patrick Rodgers and Chad Campbell.

A bogey at the last after being forced to lay up at the par-4 finishing hole was a disappointing way to finish for Chalmers but it is a solid start for the two-time Australian Open and PGA champion.

Chalmers, who has already played 20 events on the PGA Tour this season, has missed 14 of 20 cuts and is currently languishing at 176th on the FedEx Cup table, although his win at last year's Barracuda Championship ensures his ongoing exemption on the PGA Tour. 

Cameron Percy is 54th, Geoff Ogilvy, Brett Drewitt and Curtis Luck 76th, Stuart Appleby 112th, Matt Jones and Steven Bowditch’s troubles continued with respective rounds of 75 to be 142nd.

Howell III continued his recent improvement which included runner-up finishes at Torrey Pines earlier this year and a similar finish at the recent Quicken Loans event in Maryland, the latter of which was good enough to earn him a start at next week’s Open Championship.

The 38-year-old has had injury issues on occasions in 2017 but is delighted with how things are coming around, especially given he has not won on the PGA Tour since 2007.

“I had success in the past few weeks just getting here,” said Howell after his round. “I had nine weeks off prior to the Quicken Loans with a rib injury, and it was my first injury - knock on wood - I've had in my career.

“I went to Quicken Loans quite honestly not prepared to play well. I had only been hitting balls for four or five days prior to that event. Expectations were extremely low and I played well. I know that's a good lesson for myself and all golfers.

“This is a tournament that's obviously very special to me. First year here was 2000, and I was able to finish third that year to kind of get my career kick-started or going. So the Quad Cities, the golf course, it's one of our favorite events of the year. I missed it last year with a neck surgery, but, I mean, we're excited to be back here this year.

“I'm definitely on the back side of the curve right now. I need to take better advantage of these opportunities.

24-year-old Schniederjans is a graduate from last year’s Web.Com Tour who is beginning to find his feet on the PGA Tour after being one of the world’s leading amateurs before turning professional two years ago.

His nine-birdie round has set him up for a chance to better his previous best finish on the PGA Tour when 3rd at Hilton Head earlier this year.

He too has struggled with a recent back injury but appears to be back on track.

“I haven't had a great start really all year on the first round,” he said. “I have had some decent first rounds and good Fridays, but this is the first really good round I've had on Thursday. It's nice to get off to a good start and hopefully keep it going and keep the momentum going throughout the week.

“At Colonial on Sunday, I woke up and felt a little achy and tight. I was doing my warm-up and I just went into like a sort of a lunge/twist too quick, a little snatchy, and it pulled my muscle in my mid-right back. It kind of lingered and I tried to play through it, and then ended up taking like 15 days off without hitting a ball and still is sort of there. It kind of has to have maintenance, but it's good.

"It's been fine the last three weeks, but my game has been, you know, getting better as the days have gone on, too.”

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Bruce Young
About The Author : Bruce Young

A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of and background in the game of golf comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.

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