Zach Johnson grabs early World Challenge lead

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Thousand Oaks, CA ( - Zach Johnson fired a 5-under-par 67 on Thursday to grab a 1-stroke lead after the opening round of the World Challenge.

Johnson, a two-time runner-up at this event, mixed seven birdies and a pair of bogeys at Sherwood Country Club.

Matt Kuchar shot 4-under 68 to grab solo second place, while Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan carded matching 70s to share third.

Tournament host Tiger Woods is alone in fifth place after shooting 71. The world No. 1, a five-time winner at this event, countered his lone bogey at the first, where he missed a short par putt, with birdies at Nos. 5 and 11.

"I made a few mistakes today," said Woods. "I also hit a couple good shots and ended up in some interesting spots. That's gonna happen out here."

Defending champion Graeme McDowell, who also won this tournament in 2010, is tied for sixth place with Jim Furyk at even-par 72. Rory McIlroy, Webb Simpson and Bill Haas share eighth at 1-over 73.

McIlroy is coming off his first win of the 2013 calendar year, at the Australian Open, where he birdied the final hole to edge Adam Scott.

"I feel like for me to be happy I need to play sort of pretty golf," said McIlroy. "There are so many different ways to play this game. That is something I need to do a little bit more of. I need to play the ugly golf better and manage my game better so when I'm not playing that well, I can still shoot around par or a couple under. It doesn't always have to be pretty."

Tee times were pushed back one hour due to frost in the area and Johnson promptly made up for lost time when he hit Sherwood, opening with back-to-back birdies from the first.

Johnson briefly cooled from there, closing his opening nine with six pars and a bogey, but he heated up around the turn, notching five birdies in a seven- hole span from the 10th to reach 6-under. He bogeyed the last, but his 5-under total proved enough for the first-round lead.

"My two bogeys: missed club on one and then a poor drive on the other. I putted good. I wedged it great. When I had a wedge in my hand it seemed like a birdie opportunity," Johnson said in a televised interview.

NOTES: Johnson finished runner-up at this event in 2011 and 2007 ... Woods won this tournament in 2001, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2011. He has finished outside of the top two just three times in 12 appearances at this event and is the all- time money leader with $8,999,167 in career earnings ... Woods, McDowell and Davis Love III (2000, 2003) are the only other players to win twice ... The purse is $3.5 million, with the winner receiving $1,000,000.