Johnson's caddie had lower front nine Thursday

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SILVIS, Ill. – Zach Johnson played his first nine at the John Deere Classic Thursday at 1 over par.

His regular caddie, Damon Green, played his first nine in 2 under at the U.S. Senior Open and is on the leaderboard early at Indianwood Golf & Country Club in Lake Orion, Mich.

Johnson, who grew up in nearby Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is among the favorites to win the John Deere Classic this week. Green, a former mini-tour dynamo, isn’t a favorite in Michigan, but he isn’t such a big surprise as an early contender. Playing his first U.S. Golf Association event last year, Green contended in the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness, where he was tied for fifth on the back nine on Sunday before ultimately tying for 13th.

A star at Centenary College in his youth, Green went on to win 71 mini-tour events and played the Nationwide Tour awhile. In ’94, he had one hand on winning his PGA Tour card but missed a 2½-foot putt that would have secured exempt status at the final stage.

Green says that miss still haunts him.

“You’ll be lying in bed, and if you think about that 2 1/2 -footer that you missed and how it could have changed your life . . . I wake up in a cold sweat sometimes,” Green once said.

With Green’s excused absence this week, Johnson is playing with his swing coach, Mike Bender, as caddie.