Silvis, IL – Troy Matteson shot a 10-under 61 on Thursday to build a 3-stroke lead after the first round of the John Deere Classic.
While Matteson is well ahead of the field, three-time defending champion Steve Stricker is lurking near the top of the leaderboard as he pursues another title at TPC Deere Run.
He'll have to catch Matteson, who is in search of his first PGA title since the 2009 Frys.com Open. He has made the cut in just 10 of 21 starts this year, and is coming off a tie for 56th at last week's Greenbrier Classic.
"We made a joke when we started this round today," Matteson said. "We saw a guy with 7-under on the leaderboard and we said, 'Gosh, why is it only 7- under?' Then we saw Steve Stricker on the range and figured he was in the afternoon wave so we figured the low one was still coming. We just didn't know it would be us."
Ricky Barnes is alone in second place after carding a 7-under 64, while Stricker is tied for third at minus-6. He shot a 65, along with Robert Garrigus, Scott Piercy, K.J. Choi, Brian Harman, Luke Guthrie and Gary Christian.
Matteson began his round at hole No. 10 and immediately showed his putting form, hitting his third at the par five to 31 feet and draining the attempt. He sank a nine-footer for birdie at the next hole and never really took his foot off the gas pedal.
While he didn't birdied every hole, he never went too long without one.
At the 14th, a short par 4, Matteson hit a nice drive to leave himself with just 21 yards. He put his second within three feet and made the putt to reach minus-3.
He then birdied two in a row from the 16th, with putts of 27 and 10 feet, to turn at 5-under.
Matteson then began the front side with consecutive birdies to continue his great round and further his chances for a 59. Pars at Nos. 3 and 4 hurt those chances, but birdies at Nos. 5 and 7 put him at 9-under.
He then birdied the eighth with a 10-footer, and still had a chance for a 59 with an eagle at his last, a par 4. He got to the fairway with his tee shot, leaving himself with 189 yards. The attempt wasn't particularly close, as Matteson pulled it into a greenside bunker, but he saved par to end a fantastic round.
"I had been hitting 7-iron about 190, 191 every time I would hit it today," Matteson said. "I just said, 'Just try to hit the same shot,' except it was a little into the wind. I tried to turn it over and I just pull-hooked it a little bit. Believe me, I was trying to make my last one. I just ran out of holes."
Barnes began at the first hole and made it to minus-4 before carding a bogey, at the ninth. He drained four more birdies on the back side, this time without a bogey, finish with a 64.
Stricker pulled himself into the mix with a strong final nine holes. He was sitting at just even par after carding a birdie and a bogey on the front side, but began his rise up the leaderboard with a birdie at the 10th.
He gained another stroke thanks to a great tee shot at the par-3 12th, sticking the ball within six feet.
Then, at the 14th, Stricker drove into the left fairway before holing out from 80 yards for eagle. That put him at minus-4, and he followed it up with another birdie.
Stricker reached minus-6 at 17, a par 5, where he dumped his second into a greenside bunker. But he blasted within a foot and kicked that in for birdie.
"I'm looking at it as an opportunity," Stricker said of his chance to win for the fourth consecutive year. "It's fun. But there is pressure involved. You're trying to do it and there's a lot of expectations not only from me, but from a lot of other people to do it too."
Stricker's group is in front of a 10-way tie for 10th at minus-5. That group is headlined by Stuart Appleby and Ben Crane.
NOTES: Paul Goydos set the course record in 2010 with a 59...Stricker is trying to become the fifth player to win the same tournament four times in a row. The four who have accomplished that feat are Tom Morris at the British Open from 1868-70 and '72; Walter Hagen at the PGA Championship from 1924-27; Gene Sarazen at the Miami Open in 1926 and from 1928-30; and Tiger Woods, who has done it twice. Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational from 2000-03, and the Buick Invitational from 2005-08.