Z. Johnson (65) again contending at Deere

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At this point, they can probably start etching Zach Johnson's name onto the leaderboards at the John Deere Classic.

The local product and fan favorite has feasted on TPC Deere Run in recent years, winning in 2012 amid a six-year stretch where he finished no worse than third. That streak came to an end last year, when he tied for 34th, but the two-time major champ is contending once again after an opening-round 65 left him two shots behind Charles Howell III and Ollie Schniederjans.

"I've played this Tour event more than any other Tour event in my career. I had sponsor exemptions before I was even on Tour," Johnson told reporters. "I'm very comfortable with the golf course in essentially any condition, I would assume essentially any wind. All that being said, you still have to execute. Today was one of those good days."

Playing alongside Howell in the opening round, Johnson started with three straight birdies and ultimately tallied seven against just a single bogey. It was his lowest score since a third-round 65 at the Sony Open in January, which also happens to serve as his most recent top-10 finish in a stroke play event.

Less than two years removed from lifting the claret jug, Johnson has fallen to No. 74 in the latest world rankings. It marks his lowest standing since before his win at the now-defunct BellSouth Classic back in April 2004, but Johnson is hopeful that a strong week on a familiar layout can spark a turnaround.

"I feel good. It's one day," he said. "I think it can get better, but could also be worse. Got to be practical about it. However, I like the work I've put in. I like the progress I've made. I like the foundation I have. I'm just going to keep doing what I am doing."