They represent opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of playing experience at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
But Zach Johnson, the savvy veteran and 2010 Colonial champ, shared one important trait Thursday with Colonial newcomer Harris English. Both golfers avoided taking a bogey while playing in wind gusts that reached 30 mph.
That helped Johnson (6-under-par 64) and English (5-under 65) separate from the brunt of their pursuers during the opening round at an event where challenging crosswinds have been rare in recent seasons.
But the swirling gusts returned with a vengeance Thursday, with Johnson estimating there was a two-club variance in shot selection from the conditions he faced while setting a tournament scoring record of 21 under in 2010. Yet he never faltered during a six-birdie, no-bogey round in which he said course knowledge proved useful.
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English was joined at 5 under by Jason Dufner, Tom Gillis and Kyle Reifers. But Dufner, Gillis and Reifers all posted at least one bogey.
Among the front-runners, only Johnson and English avoided backtracking with bogeys -- quite a feat, considering the breezy conditions.
"There is nothing stopping the wind. I hope it doesn't calm down," Johnson said. "It's what you anticipate... It will mangle you and tear you apart if your game is a little bit off."
But Johnson, 36, had his "A" game in place from the get-go, opening with a 40-foot birdie putt on his first hole of the day (No. 10) and adding four in a row at Nos. 13-16 to seize immediate control of the leader board.
Unlike Johnson, who spent Thursday playing his 25th competitive round at Colonial, English arrived with minimal course knowledge. He played the front nine in a Tuesday practice round and walked the back nine. His round followed a trend that began earlier this week during a 36-hole British Open qualifier at Gleneagles Country Club in Plano.
English, 22, won that event Monday by posting rounds of 60-63. Neither of those efforts included a bogey, either. The PGA Tour rookie said completing three consecutive bogey-free rounds is something "I've never done before," but seemed unfazed by his hot start at Colonial.
"I think sometimes you can overdo looking at golf courses," said English, who also had not played a competitive round at Gleneagles before this week. "The way it works for me is, I pick out the good areas to hit it and I don't really look at the bad areas. I just hit shots off the tee to where I have a comfortable yardage [to the hole] and I hit to places on the green where I can have a comfortable putt.
"It's all about playing shots that you know you can play."
English played the brunt of his shots Thursday with four different wedges, each with varying lofts, of 47, 51, 56 and 61 degrees. He shelved his 4-iron and added a fourth wedge.
Of his five birdie putts, three were set up by approaches with one of his wedges. So was a clutch save at No. 12, where English buried a 2-foot par putt to escape his closest brush with bogey.
"Going with four wedges, I've had so many better yardages [on approach shots]. I don't have to second-guess myself," said English, who played college golf at Georgia. "I can hit a full shot in."
None of the full shots that English or Johnson hit Thursday registered with as much impact as Reifers' 231-yard approach at the first hole, which set up a 20-foot eagle putt. Nor could English or Johnson match the seven-birdie totals posted by Gillis and Dufner, last week's winner at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
But Johnson reveled in the fact that he did not give back any strokes to par during his round on a day when defending champ David Toms soared to a 74 and only 30 of 123 starters broke even-par 70. Eleven golfers finished with scores of 75 or higher, including U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III (75) and Dicky Pride (76), last week's runner-up at the Byron NelsonChampionship.
"When you've got the momentum, you want to keep it going," said Johnson, who took only one bogey in his final 48 holes during his 2010 Colonial triumph.
"With wind like this, you want to keep the ball in play and just give yourself [birdie] opportunities... I've got zero complaints. I controlled my trajectory in the wind. I didn't ever put myself in a position that was too worrisome.
"I attacked when I could attack. I just hit quality shots."
As a result, Johnson is back in control of the Colonial leader board. The last time he put himself in this position, he left with a plaid jacket.
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760