Blanks blitz edges Love

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US veterans Kris Blanks and Davis Love III have upstaged the young guns on day one at the John Deere Classic.

PGA Tour veteran Davis Love III, energized after a two-week break, upstaged the young guns on Thursday as he marched into contention at the John Deere Classic.

The 47-year-old American, bidding for his first victory on the US PGA Tour since the 2008 Disney Classic, posted a bogey-free, seven-under-par 64 in perfect weather at the TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois to lead for most of the day before being reeled in and overtaken by fellow American Kris Blanks late in the day.

Blanks, at 38 no youngster himself, fired real live golf bullets, sensationally birdying each of his last five holes. as he blazed to an eight-under par 63, the Georgian racking up 10 birdies as he overtook Love with his stunning late charge.

Love collected seven birdies in tying another American, Steve Marino, a recent Tour winner, and Canadian journeyman Matt McQuillan in second place behind Blanks.

American Mark Wilson and compatriot Kyle Stanley opened with 65s while World No 5 Steve Stricker, the highest ranked player in the field and in pursuit of a third consecutive victory at Deere Run, was in the group of 12 players log-jammed on 66.

“I got off to a good start with the putter and, other than a couple of drives, hit the ball real well,” said Love afterwards. “So, all in all, a real good day.”

Love believed a two-week getaway from golf had made the world of a difference to his up-beat approach.

“I watched my son play a fair amount of golf … I watched my daughter ride horses…I went paddle boarding five mornings in a row as part of my workouts.

“I think it’s important to be mentally refreshed and physically strong. We’ve seen that with a lot of the top players lately, from Greg Norman to Tiger (Woods). If they’re in shape and they feel good, it gives them confidence.”

Love, the US PGA Champion in 1997 and a 2-time winner on the PGA Tour, also believed that remaining competitive and hungry to win, even though he was nearing the stage when it would be time to move into over-50s golf, was an important reason why he was still able to contend

“I don’t put an age on it,” he said. “I still want to see how good I can get, whether I can get back to whatever level or if I can win some more.

“If it’s only 20 (PGA Tour titles), that’s great but I’m hoping I get a lot farther than that and stay competitive.”

He has been playing most of his golf on the Canadian Tour and other B League circuits and was delighted to recover from a discouraging start.

“I hit it in the trees with a three-wood off the first hole, so I didn’t really know what to expect for the day,” the 30-year-old said.

“I chipped in for eagle on two and hit it in a bad spot on three and made another bogey but, from there on, it was a pretty flawless round.”

Stricker soared into early contention while playing alongside yellow American Mark Wilson.

“We played good,” Stricker said. “We lost David Toms at the turn, but Mark and I, we kind of fed off one another. … even though it was a twosome it was a good group.”

Toms, the US PGA champion in 2001, pulled out after nine holes because a hip injury.

The 44-year-old American has also withdrawn from next week’s Open Championship at Royal St George’s.

Louis Oosthuizen, who has opted to play the John Deere rather than the Scottish Open as he prepares for the defence of his Open title next week, is even par.

The South African made four birdies but also carded two bogies and a double bogey, leaving him with some work to do already if he is to challenge.

Stewart Cink shot a one-over 72, while Mike Weir and David Duval are four over after 18 holes.

The Top 10 leaderboard (US unless stated)

63 Kris Blanks
64 Matt McQuillan (Can), Steve Marino, Davis Love III
65 Mark Wilson, Kyle Stanley,
66 Chez Reavie, Josh Teater, Jim Herman, Lee Janzen, Cameron Percy (Aus), D.A. Points, Charles Howell III , Zach Johnson, Brendon De Jonge (Zim), Paul Goydos, Steve Stricker, Cameron Beckman.

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