Diaz (62) leads Henley, Long at John Deere Classic

Needing a big result to save his Tour card, Russell Henley shot an opening 64 to headline the early leaders at the John Deere Classic.
Needing a big result to save his Tour card, Russell Henley shot an opening 64 to headline the early leaders at the John Deere Classic.

The scores were predictably low in the opening round of the John Deere Classic, as veterans and young guns alike look to salvage a season or spark some Open momentum. Here's how things stand in the Quad Cities:

Leaderboard: Roberto Diaz (-9), Russell Henley (-7), Adam Long (-7), Martin Laird (-6), Andrew Landry (-6), Vaughn Taylor (-6), Ryan Palmer (-6), Zack Sucher (-6), Ryan Blaum (-6)

What it means: If you want to contend at TPC Deere Run, you've got to go low. Such was the case Thursday, where an otherwise solid 67 left players outside the top 15. The early contenders include a few recent winners, but they're staring up at Diaz, the 32-year-old, second-year Tour pro from Mexico. Henley,  who is in the midst of a lean year and might be saving some of his best golf for just the nick of time, is just two shots back with Long.

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Round of the day: Diaz barely cleared 100 FedExCup points in his rookie season on Tour in 2017-18 but kept his card through the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. This season, he is No. 158 in points, so a strong finish this week would be huge – a win would give him a two-year exemption and Masters invite while bumping him to 50th in the FedExCup standings. He started strong Thursday at the Deere, birdieing four of his first five holes and three of his final four. An eagle at the par-5 10th was the highlight in his 9-under 62.

Full-field scores from the John Deere Classic

Full coverage of the John Deere Classic

Best of the rest: Henley's two-year exemption for winning the 2017 Houston Open expires next month, and the veteran started the week 165th in points. But he's looking to make a move in the right direction after opening with a 7-under 64, dropping his lone shot of the day on his final hole. Henley has missed four cuts in a row but appears likely to extend his stay through the weekend after a round that included four birdies on each side and 14 greens in regulation. Long broke through for his maiden victory at the Desert Classic in January, but he's been rather quiet since with 11 missed cuts in 17 starts. He's again in the mix after joining Henley at 7 under, rolling in four birdies in a six-hole stretch from Nos. 12-17. It's his lowest round since a pair of 63s led to victory in Palm Springs six months ago.

Biggest disappointment: Tournament regular Zach Johnson had hoped the friendly confines might get his mediocre play turned around, but that wasn't the case in the opening round. Johnson went years without finishing  outside the top 5 at Deere Run, but he's in danger of a rare early exit after opening with a 1-over 72. It marked the first time Johnson shot over par at this event since the third round in 2008, breaking a streak of 40 straight rounds at par or better.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Henley has been known to get streaky with the putter, and he's a proven winner on Tour. After gaining more than 1.5 shots on the field on the greens during the opening round, he's one to keep an eye on heading into Friday. But don't forget about some of the rising stars in the field, including Matthew Wolff who opened with a 4-under 67 in his first round as a Tour winner.

Shot of the day: Hosung Choi gave the Illinois fans reason to cheer when he launched his tee shot on the par-4 14th to within 10 feet. The 324-yard shot set up an eagle, just the second of the day on the hole, and got Choi back to even par as he makes his second career Tour start.

Quote of the day: "Trying to find where the locker room is is new for me." - Long, who continues to adjust in the midst of his rookie season but is now contending for what would be his second win of the year.

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