SILVIS, Ill. — Jonas Blixt heated up on the back nine at TPC Deere Run on Thursday, playing his last six holes in 6 under for a 9-under 62 and a two-shot lead over Grayson Murray in the first round of the John Deere Classic.
Murray was 8 under through 13 holes but stalled from there. He bogeyed his final hole and shot 64. Cameron Young, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 19, also closed with a bogey and was part of a big group three shots back.
The 39-year-old Blixt, a three-time winner on tour, has only conditional status and is making his first PGA Tour start since the Byron Nelson in May. He spent most of the past six weeks working at home with his swing coach and missed the cut last week on the Korn Ferry Tour, but he felt like something clicked on the range on Tuesday.
"I kind of came to the point in my season where it's so late that I don't feel any pressure anymore really and just kind of go out and swing at it," Blixt said. "Golf is weird. Like, tomorrow I can shoot 100 I feel like, but today was a great day."
Blixt shot 7-under 29 on the back nine — his first time breaking 30 for nine holes on tour — and the 62 matches his career-best round. He drove the green on the 360-yard, par-4 14th hole and made a 43-foot putt for eagle. On the par-4 18th, he hit his approach from a fairway bunker within 5 feet for a closing birdie.
Take a look: First round of the John Deere Classic
Blixt last won in 2017 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, paired with Cameron Smith in the team event. He had back surgery two years later and has struggled since. He entered the week ranked 842nd in the world.
"I played a lot of years on tour, and I'm very thankful for it, and I got to play with a lot of good players, a lot of good golf courses, a lot of good sponsors," Blixt said. "Sometimes you just have to be grateful for what you have and what you experience as well and not always think about what could have been. So I kind of lean on that a little bit. Obviously I'm still hungry. I'm not saying that I'm quitting."
Murray's 64 was his best round on tour in three years.
"I've been playing really good on the Korn Ferry Tour and got a win about a month ago and a third place out there," he said. "I'm in a good position out there to lock up my card here soon, and I felt like coming out here with an opportunity to kind of double dip, as you could say, and play a little more free knowing that my card is pretty much locked up out there."
Murray, a winner at the Barbasol Championship in 2017, suffered a knee injury in a scooter crash in Bermuda in October, forcing him to withdraw from the Bermuda Championship. He didn't play again until January on the Korn Ferry Tour, and since then he has worked on spending his free time productively.
"I try to fill my time with some positive things off the course, whether it's going to the gym or hitting up a movie," he said. "We have a lot of down time, and I would say I was not good at prioritizing that in the past.
"I'm 29 years old now. I've been out here a long time, and I kind of had a coming-to-Jesus moment a little bit and said, hey, look, I have an opportunity here. I probably haven't reached my prime yet."
Joining Young at 65 were Greyson Sigg, Garrick Higgo, Adam Schenk, Nate Lashley and Richy Werenski.
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