Recap of the day
Morning wave: Let the birdie-fest begin! Adam Long was the one to go lowest in the early session, firing eight birdies in a 7-under 64. That put him a shot ahead of fellow American Andrew Landry and Scotland's Martin Laird. There were seven at 5-under, including Chilean youngster Joaquin Niemann.
Afternoon wave: Russell Henley matched Long's 64 while Vaughn Taylor, Ryan Palmer and Zack Sucher added to bunch just one back after 65s. It was Roberto Diaz who got the last laugh. He tossed together a career-low 62 to lap Adam Long and Russell Henley by two shots.
Revised outright betting: 14/1 Niemann, Diaz, 16/1 Henley, 18/1 Palmer, 20/1 Taylor, 22/1 Berger, Laird, Wolff, 25/1 Long, Harman.
Friday weather forecast
A warm, sunny day should dry the greens out a little. Temps are in the early 80s by the afternoon while the wind is modest.
Leaders after at 18 holes
Roberto Diaz (62) – Diaz could do nothing wrong today as he gained 5.1 strokes tee-to-green and another 2.5 strokes putting. This shattered his previous best round on the PGA TOUR so it will be interesting to see how he backs it up tomorrow morning.
Adam Long (64) – The Desert Classic winner pelted 13 of the 14 fairways and found 14 greens in regulation. Gained over 4 strokes tee-to-green as he recorded his lowest round since that shock January win.
Russell Henley (64) – Henley has three top tens here and matched his TPC Deere Run low (also 64 in R2 in 2017) with eight birdies in his first 16 holes before dropping a shot at his final hole (9th). Hit 12 (of 14) fairways and 14 greens in the right number.
Fate of the favorites
Viktor Hovland (69) - He's been finishing tournaments fast but not getting quick starts. Once more, a little slow out of the blocks with just three birdies on the day against a lone bogey. Negative SG: Approach figures and putter only average.
Collin Morikawa (70) – Lots of hype around him and he was favorite in some books when the odds came out. Not his best today though. Three birdies, two bogeys and didn't pick up a shot on the par 5s. Stone cold putter the culprit.
Joaquin Niemann (66) – Unlike the other youngsters at the front of the betting, Niemann has played here before. He did well, posting T23 after a closing 65. He came close to matching that today, enjoying a stretch of four birdies in five holes from the 2nd. Only hit 12 GIR but the flatstick was en fuego.
Sungjae Im (70) – Had made more birdies (394) than anyone else this season coming to TPC Deere Run. Nudged that tally up by four today, making just one bogey. Found only 11 GIR so needs to tidy that up.
Adam Long (64): “I've missed the last couple cuts and just been playing okay, and one thing or another hasn't been working for me there, either ball-striking or putting, and today finally everything was starting to trend in the right direction. I made a lot of putts today, which has been kind of my downfall the last week or two."
Andrew Landry (65): "I hit the ball really well. Other than that, it was just a good solid day. Just made a lot of smart decisions and just placed the ball in good spots around the greens, around the hole, and just had a lot of good numbers. Just for me, this has always been one of my favorite tournaments of the year. The golf course sets up really well for me. I've played well in the past here before."
Vaughn Taylor (65): "I hit it well and putted well, to be honest. It was a really good ball-striking day early and couldn't get some putts to go, and then the putter started heating up, and I kind of started putting them both together. Overall I did everything pretty well. I'd love to get in the British this week. That's kind of my goal this week."
Ryan Palmer (65): "It was fun. I just came into the week wanting to get my game back going for next week (The Open), obviously, but this golf course sets up good tee to green for me. I've just struggled on the greens. But RAndy Smith was here this week and kind of had a crisis on Tuesday with my ball-striking, but took yesterday's pro-am round a bit more serious and got my ball-striking under control and was able to make some putts today."
Martin Laird (65): "Played nicely. It was nice being out with the second group. The greens were about as good as you're ever going to see. My game is in good shape right now. I've just struggled to put four rounds together this year. If I could drop one round out of every tournament, I'd be right up there in the FedExCup."
Road to victory at TPC Deere Run
2018 Michael Kim – R1: 2nd, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2017 Bryson DeChambeau – R1: 7th, R2: 2nd, R3: 5th
2016 Ryan Moore – R1: 3rd, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2015 Jordan Spieth – R1: 101st, R2: 16th, R3: 1st
2014 Brian Harman – R1: 1st, R2: 3rd, R3: 1st
Notes: Spieth is the huge outlier in the above list, breaking the recent trend of needing to start fast. Although sitting outside the top 100, he was 'only' eight back while Zach Johnson (2012) and Steve Stricker (2009) came from seven off the pace to win. Spieth also won it from six behind after 18 holes in 2013.
Fate of the first-round leaders at TPC Deere Run – where did they finish?
2018 Steve Wheatcroft 12th
2017 Charles Howell III 19th, Ollie Schniederjans 39th
2016 Andrew Loupe 16th, Tom Gillis 34th
2015 Justin Thomas 5th, Nicholas Thompson 44th
2014 Brian Harman 1st, Zach Johnson 2nd, Rory Sabbatini 37th
Notes: It's mixed evidence. The birdie count needs to stay high so those who cooled off have been eaten up by the peleton. In the last three years, none of the five leaders managed a top 10. Then again, in 2014 Harman and Johnson opened with 63s and finished 1-2.
Focus on – Adam Long
While Matthew Wolff's thrilling 3M Open victory last week was heralded as the first of many, Long was talked more in terms of a one-hit wonder after his surprise win at the Desert Classic. So what's he done between that victory and today's 64? One answer would be missed 12 cuts. A kinder take would be to point out his tied 10th at Bay Hill, a tied 19th at Colonial and a tied 21st at the Travelers. The latter two came in the space of three starts although he's missed his latest two cuts. At 51st in the FedExCup standings, he'll have a decent chance of getting through two legs of the playoffs but today's start suggests he could boost his position even further. Long shot two 63s and 26-under to take victory in the Desert Classic and, as he showed today, when scoring is low the Duke Blue Devil can make an impact.
Focus on – Open watch
In two of the last four years, a player has contested the John Deere Classic, flown straight to the UK on Sunday night and won the Open Championship a week later. Last year, Francesco Molinari was runner-up here before winning at Carnoustie while Zach Johnson won the 2015 Open at St. Andrews on the back of a top three at TPC Deere Run. Note to self: Keep a close eye on the leading finishers this week. That said, there are only 12 players taking part who have punched their tickets to Royal Portrush and can we really see any of them contending there? One more spot is up for grabs but the dozen names definitely heading to Northern Ireland are Ryan Palmer, Joaquin Niemann, Lucas Glover, Kyle Stanley, Stewart Cink, Charles Howell III, Sungjae Im, Nate Lashley, Doc Redman, Austin Connelly, Zach Johnson and Joel Dahmen.