FORT WORTH, Texas – Harris English had never played all 18 holes at Colonial before teeing off for the opening round. He had never even been in a PGA Tour event before this season.
No problem for the 22-year-old rookie who is making it look all too easy.
English, who has already made 11 of 14 cuts this season, shot a bogey-free 65 Thursday and was in a group of four players within a stroke of first-round leader Zach Johnson.
"It's been awesome," English said. "I'm enjoying what I'm doing. It beats sitting at a desk or being in class right now."
Before earning his rookie card by finishing tied for 13th at the PGA Tour qualifying tournament in December, English had played in only seven Nationwide events. He had a victory as an amateur along with finishes of second and third.
"Winning on Nationwide really gave me a lot of confidence that I could play professional golf," he said. "I didn't know if I was ready for the Nationwide Tour, and I definitely didn't think I was ready for the PGA Tour. But making it through Q-school, I just got a lot of confidence."
Johnson had a few nice par-savers in his own bogey-free round on a day when 20-30 mph winds with higher gusts whipped through the big oak trees lining the fairways.
At No. 7 — his 16th hole Thursday — Johnson was so deep in a greenside bunker that he couldn't even be seen from the other side of the green until he popped up to watch his blast over the ridge to 2 1/2 feet from the cup. That was four holes after his chip inside 4 feet at a 244-yard par 3.
"I got off to a good start, just hit some quality shots. I didn't put myself ever in a position that was too worrisome," Johnson said. "I kept the golf course in front me. I attacked when I could attack. I had a couple of nice saves when I needed it. ... I've got zero complaints."
Jason Dufner, Tom Gillis and Kyle Reifers were tied for second with English.
Dufner won the Byron Nelson Championship last week, and both of his PGA Tour victories have come in the last four weeks. He started at Colonial with three consecutive birdies, was 5 under after a 10-foot birdie putt at the 174-yard eighth hole, then overcame two bogeys in a three-hole stretch.
"Yes, the game has been really good, a fantastic way to start," Dufner said. "You have some questions after a win last week, how are you going to respond to that? I came out really quick today and got some birdies, had a nice round."
Johnson opened with a 40-foot birdie putt at the 396-yard 10th hole on the way to his 13th consecutive under-par round at Hogan's Alley. He set the Colonial tournament scoring record with his 21-under 259 in 2010, when he had a pair of 64s in his last PGA Tour victory.
After hitting into a greenside bunker at the 435-yard 12th, he blasted to 9 feet to save par.
"The big putt that got me going," said Johnson, who followed with four consecutive birdies in a span that included two par 3s and all the putts between 14-21 feet.
Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion, hasn't won since slipping on that winner's plaid jacket at Colonial two years ago. But he has made all 12 cuts this year, with a runner-up finish at Hilton Head and a tie for second at The Players Championship in his three previous events.
Sergio Garcia, the 2001 Colonial champ who hasn't won in four years, was in the same group as Johnson. Garcia shot a 66 to match Chris DiMarco, Tommy Gainey and Andres Romero.
Three days before his impressive start at Colonial, English had rounds of 60 and 63 during a British Open qualifier at Gleneagles. That is a much more wide-open layout just outside of Dallas about an hour from Colonial, and where he also had never played a full round before it counted.
"Three bogey-free rounds I have had in a row, which I've never done," English said. "I'm playing solid golf and not really getting out of position. I'm getting my putter going. I'm hitting it to 15 or 20 feet a lot and seemed to be making a good many of those. It's just been good."
Divots: Defending Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial champion David Toms, in the group with Johnson and Garcia, had only one birdie in an opening 74. Last year, the 45-year-old Toms started with consecutive rounds of 62 to match the PGA Tour scoring record for the first 36 holes of a tournament. ... Dufner was playing with Matt Kuchar, who two weeks ago won The Players Championship, and Rickie Fowler, The Players runner-up who the week before that got his first PGA Tour victory at Quail Hollow. Kuchar's only birdie in a round of 72 came on the par-5 No. 1. Fowler birdied two of the last three holes for a 68.