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Zach Johnson top draw at John Deere Classic

With most of the game's top players already in Europe preparing for next week's British Open, Masters champion Zach Johnson is the headline act at the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Illinois.

Johnson, who held off a late challenge by Tiger Woods to claim his first major title by two shots at Augusta National in April, is the only member of the world's top 20 playing this week.

A double winner on the 2007 PGA Tour, the 15th-ranked American hails from neighboring state Iowa and has always cherished playing at the TPC Deere Run.

"I may have supported the tournament, but this tournament has supported me too," Johnson told reporters on Tuesday as he prepared for Thursday's opening round. "It's a good friendship, a good relationship.

"I've never really played great here but I've played decent and I love coming back," added the 31-year-old, whose best finish was a tie for 20th in 2004.

"It's hard to play in front of hometown friends and family, regardless of where it is. At the same time, I'm getting used to that now. And I love this golf course, I love the people."

Johnson, making his sixth consecutive appearance at an event he affectionately regards as his fifth major, has not competed since missing the cut at last month's Travelers Championship.

"I feel good about things and I'm rested now," he said. "I literally took 14 days off and didn't touch a golf club. Now I'm back to reality and I've got to get it cooking here."

Johnson, who edged out Japan's Ryuji Imada in a playoff to claim his third PGA Tour success at the inaugural AT&T Classic in May, lies fifth in the Tour money list with earnings of $2,985,910.

Other notable players in this week's field include twice major winner John Daly, Europe's 2004 Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer and Todd Hamilton, whose last Tour victory came at the 2004 British Open.

Australia's John Senden defends the title he clinched by a stroke over American JP Hayes at Deere Run last year, his first success on the PGA Tour after 139 starts.

July 11, 2007


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