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October 13 2011

5:36 PM

Johnson drives himself near the lead

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Richard S. Johnson set himself up well off the tee during Thursday's opening round.
By Chris Dunham, PGATOUR.COM ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Though already a member of the PGA TOUR, Richard S. Johnson was PGA TOUR driven during Thursday's first round of the McGladrey Classic. Johnson, who at No. 185 on the money list, is battling to secure his TOUR card for 2012 found 13 of 14 fairways in regulation Thursday. His 5-under 65 places him two shots behind early leader Webb Simpson at the McGladrey Classic. Shots from the tee have plagued Johnson this year. He’s hitting less than 63 percent of fairways and averaging nearly one stroke more per round. That was no problem Thursday, where his lone missed fairway came on his opening tee shot that settled right on the edge of the short grass. “I drove it fantastic,” Johnson said. “The course is not the longest one we play on TOUR that gives you a lot of short irons into soft greens. It was an easy day for me.” This in a season where nothing much has come easy for Johnson, who has made just 9 of 21 cuts on TOUR after regaining full status at q-school last fall. Johnson tied for 54th at this event last year with two rounds in the 60s, but has 5 under mark is one shot better than his total number from a year ago. In addition to his improved game off the tee, soft conditions at the Seaside Course made pins much more accessible, especially from his fairway lies. “You can attack a lot more this year,” Johnson said. “Last year, we had to be careful with some of the pins. There were actually some really tucked ones out there today, but we could get after them. (The soft conditions) bring in some other things, like you can spin it off the greens in a couple areas where it wouldn’t have been the case last year.”
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