Blanks finding putting stroke at John Deere Classic

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SILVIS, Ill. --- His putting was miserable, he was missing cuts and every round was turning into a struggle.

 Kris Blanks birdied his final five holes Thursday to finish with an 8-under-par 63 and grab the first-round lead at the John Deere Classic.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Kris Blanks birdied his final five holes Thursday to finish with an 8-under-par 63 and grab the first-round lead at the John Deere Classic.

Kris Blanks knew he was better than that so he made a change, focusing on the part of his game that was causing the most grief. He had to do something about his putting.

"I always equate a golfer to NASCAR. We're always making tweaks," Blanks said. "I just needed to do something to change it up and that's what we did."

Sometimes the tweaks don't work.

This time, they did.

Blanks birdied his final five holes Thursday to finish with an 8-under-par 63 and grab the first-round lead at the John Deere Classic.

Blanks, who played the back nine first, rolled in a 25-foot putt on No. 5 to start his late run and capped it with an 11-footer to leave him alone at the top after Canadian rookie Matt McQuillan and veteran Davis Love III had held that spot much of the day with 64s.

"I hope I can keep it going," said Blanks, who is a former winner of the annual NGA/Hooters Tour event in McCormick, S.C. "I've never made a cut here. I think this week I will -- hopefully."

Blanks, 38, is in his third year on the tour and came in tied for 175th in putting. But after tinkering with his approach the previous night, he found what he needed and put himself in good position to reach the weekend.

"It was good to finally see some putts fall, which I've been struggling with all year," said Blanks, who has missed the cut in 11 of 20 tournaments. "So that was definitely a positive. It's just fun to make some putts."

Though no one approached the eye-popping numbers of last year's first round, when Paul Goydos shot 59 and Stricker had 60, there were plenty in the mid-60s. Goydos matched Stricker with 66, as did Augusta native Charles Howell, Josh Teater, Lee Janzen, D.A. Points, Cameron Percy, Brendon de Jonge, Zach Johnson, Cameron Beckman, Chez Reavie and Jim Herman.

David Toms (hip) and Robert Garrigus (back) withdrew from the tournament halfway through their rounds.

Toms said his injury will keep him out of next week's British Open.

HOW LOCALS FARED
  • VAUGHN TAYLOR, -2, Trails by 6
  • BLAKE ADAMS, +1, Trails by 9
  • CHARLES HOWELL, -5, Trails by 3
  • BRIAN GAY, -3, Trails by 5
  • KEVIN KISNER, -2, Trails by 6

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