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Overton leads Garcia Johnson two back

IRVING, Texas – Jeff Overton shot a bogey-free 6-under 64 Thursday to take the first-round lead at the Byron Nelson Championship, a stroke better than Ryan Palmer.

A year after tying for second at TPC Four Seasons, Overton started his back nine with four birdies in a seven-hole stretch. He had his best score in 15 career rounds at the Nelson, even after his 22-foot birdie attempt on the closing hole lipped out.

“It’s nice having confidence because of last year,” Overton said. “I knew I played well. I just wanted to keep things rolling.”

After a par-saving 10-foot par putt at the 220-yard par-3 second hole, Overton had consecutive birdies.

“That broke a lot and I thought I missed it, and it actually went in,” Overton said. “And next thing, I was able to hit a lot of great shots and strike out early. I never had a chance of making bogey from there. “

Palmer has made the cut only once in his seven previous Nelson appearances. This week, he is letting his caddie call all his shots.

Sergio Garcia, who withdrew from a British Open qualifier this week and didn’t even play a practice round because of an infected fingernail on his left hand, was in a group of nine players at 66.

The infection on Garcia’s ring finger made it difficult to grip a club. His finger was sore a few days ago that he thought he might not even be able to play.

How about this for a cure for Garcia? Antibiotic cream, draining the infection, seeing the new “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie and an opening eagle.

“It’s funny how golf is sometimes. Yeah, rarely practice at all and then we get there,” Garcia said about holing a sand wedge from 116 yards on his first hole, the 418-yard 10th. “I hit it and I saw guys on the green saying 'In' and I thought, 'Perfect!’ I couldn’t have started in a better way.”

Overton was part of the Ryder Cup team last year when he had three runner-up finishes, among them being part of a three-way tie for second at last year’s Nelson behind Jason Day.

Though he has made the cut in all but one of his previous 13 tournaments this season, Overton has finished better than 20th only once. That was a sixth-place finish at the Honda Classic in March, and he’s had his missed cut and finished no better than 26th since then.

“I hope this is the beginning of a good streak for me,” he said. “I’ve been hitting it really well the last three or four weeks, just have not made my putts all year.”

The TPC greens were pelted by hail described as half the size of baseballs during storms Tuesday night. Crews worked on the greens before and after a pro-am Wednesday.

During the opening round Thursday, players were allowed to treat hail damage as a ball mark that they could repair. They also took advantage of lift, clean and place being in effect because of potential damage to other areas of the course.

Dustin Johnson, who played in the group with Garcia, was in the group at 66 along with Jeff Quinney, Scott Piercy, Will Strickler, Chris Riley, Josh Teater, Joe Ogilvie and Keegan Bradley.

Johnson’s double bogey on his second hole, the 329-yard 11th, came after he hooked his drive into the water going for the green and then hit his fourth shot over the green.

He was bogey-free the rest of the round, starting with a 21-foot birdie at No. 12 and a 22-footer at No. 14. His six birdie putts averaged more than 19 feet each – the shortest was 8 with a long of 35 feet.

Johnson, who has finished second- and third-place finishes this season, was under par for the eighth time in his last nine rounds at the Nelson.

“The greens were great, so, you know, I got to give props to the grounds crew,” Johnson said. “They did a really good job of getting the greens ready, especially after that hail storm. You’ve definitely got to give them a hand.”

Garcia said he fixed several divots on every hole, but said the greens were OK.

DIVOTS: K.J. Choi, who won The Players Championship two weeks ago before skipping Colonial last week, shot a 71 with four bogeys while playing with Garcia and Johnson. … Defending champion Day shot a 72 that included a double bogey and four bogeys.