Johnson claims narrow advantage

Zach Johnson claimed a one-stroke lead after shooting a 67 in the first round of the Northwestern World Challenge on Thursday.

A two-time runner-up at the Tiger Woods-hosted event, Johnson carded seven birdies to claim a narrow advantage over Matt Kuchar (68).

Two strokes behind Kuchar after rounds of 70 are Hunter Mahan and Bubba Watson in a share for third, while Woods was another stroke further behind on one-under – the final player to card a round below par.

“There’s some tough pins out there,” Woods admitted after his round.

“You miss them on the wrong spots, you’re going to pay the price, and I think that’s kind of what’s signified in the scoring. No one is running away with it. Nobody went low today.

“I made a few mistakes.

“Obviously the very first hole I missed a little short one, and I missed a short one at 18.

“But I had a couple good ones on the back nine today end up in some very interesting spots. The golf course is kind of set up that way now.”

Johnson was pleased with his efforts, but rued the bogey he carded on the par-four 18th when he hit a wayward drive off the tee.

“I did everything decent,” he said.

“I wedged it really good. Any time I had a wedge in my hand, I seemed to be hitting my lines and my yardages. I putted it great. Just a real solid day all around.”

Graeme McDowell, the defending champion who also lifted the title in 2010, carded an even par 72 whilst playing with compatriot Rory McIlroy, who had to settle for a 73.

McIlroy won his first tournament of the year at the Australian Open last week, but failed to carry on that momentum and dropped shots on five occasions during his round round at Sherwood Country Club.

“The course hasn’t been this tough in a couple years,” McDowell admitted

“The greens are much firmer. The speed of them caught me by surprise a little bit today. My speed was a little clumsy and it showed today on the greens.”