The Ottumwa Courier

AP Sports

July 18, 2013

Zach Johnson shakes off defeat, leads at Muirfield

GULLANE, Scotland (AP) — Zach Johnson quickly shook off that defeat last weekend.

Johnson seized the early lead at the British Open on Thursday, shooting a 5-under 31 on the front side only four days after losing the John Deere Classic in a playoff.

Among those already in the clubhouse, Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello posted a 4-under 67, countryman Miguel Angel Jimenez got off to a blistering start on the way to 68, while 2004 Open champion Todd Hamilton put up a surprising 69 — his lowest round in the tournament since that improbable victory nine years ago.

"This game is a lot about confidence," said Hamilton, who now plays on a minor-league tour in the U.S. "I didn't really know what to expect. I hit a couple of drives early with the driver and made a few putts and that kind of settled me down, and I didn't try to do a lot of stuff that I didn't feel comfortable doing."

Johnson didn't arrive at Muirfield until Monday morning after playing in the John Deere, where he made bogey on the 72nd hole and wound up losing in a three-man playoff. Nineteen-year-old Jordan Spieth captured the title on the fifth extra hole, becoming the youngest winner on the PGA Tour since 1931.

If Johnson was still kicking himself over that result, it didn't show. The 2007 Masters champion made an eagle at the par-5 fifth, then birdied the next two holes to claim the top spot on the board.

The tournament began with the sun poking through big, puffy clouds along the Scottish coast. The forecast hardly seemed fitting for a British Open: mostly sunny with temperatures climbing into the mid-70s.

There was a bit of a breeze at the course off the Firth of Forth — the wind is always the main line of defense for a links course — but not enough to be much of a problem.

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