SILVIS, Ill. (AP) — Nathan Green returned to the United States on Monday in a better frame of mind and, apparently, with a better golf game. Three weeks relaxing back home in Australia was just what he needed.
He went to the course for some “social” golf but didn’t practice. He played soccer “against my manager’s wishes.”
More than anything, he cleared his mind.
“I just put my feet up and didn’t really do that much the whole time,” Green said.
He’s doing plenty at the Deere Classic.
While Masters champion Zach Johnson missed the cut, Green shot an 8-under 63 to take a one-stroke lead over Jason Dufner (66) and Carl Pettersson (64). First-round leader Neal Lancaster (68) was two strokes back.
Johnson shot an even-par 71 for a 36-hole total of 141 and missed the cut by a stroke, leaving the event without its main attraction.
Green, seeking his first tour victory, grabbed the lead on 17 when he knocked in a 4-foot putt for birdie — his eighth of the day — to reach 12 under.
“I was just happy to be playing golf again,” said Green, who had not played since missing the cut in the U.S. Open. “Before I went home, the U.S. Open was my last event and I was frustrated and stressed out and not really enjoying playing. That was the reason for the break.”
The 63 was his lowest round in a PGA Tour event and it made him a second-round leader for the first time. Now, he’s trying to become the 19th player to earn his first tour victory at the Deere.
With many of the top players overseas preparing for next week’s British Open, the Deere Classic attracts unknowns and faded stars. One exception was Johnson, a two-time winner this year and the man with the green jacket.
Also missing the cut were Lee Janzen (even), John Daly (6 over) and defending champion John Senden of Australia (7 over).
Johnson ended the round with a flourish, sending a 153-yard approach within a few feet of the cup to set up a birdie on the par-4 18th. But overall, this was not a good week.
He’ll try to shake it off in time for the British Open.
“I’ve just got to get back to where I was mid, early spring and trust in that and see where that takes me,” he said. “I don’t feel like it’s that far off.”
Although he grew up just over an hour away in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and considers this his home event, Johnson has never finished higher than 20th. And the form that carried him to victory at Augusta was nowhere in sight.
He took two weeks off and, unlike Green, the break did not pay immediate dividends on the course.
“I’m just very rusty,” he said. “I took a lot of time off, which I needed. I don’t regret that, and I certainly would do it again. But it’s very evident that my game is rusty all around.”
His tee shot on 14 landed in a bunker, and what happened next only added to his frustration. Johnson flipped his club in frustration after he knocked the ball over the green and into the woods, and his third shot went only a few feet.
“Obviously disappointing,” Johnson said. “This is one of those jobs, if you will, that you’ve got to get over pretty quick. I’m accustomed to that. I never like missing cuts, especially by a shot, especially being close to home.”
For Dufner, the Deere Classic has been a good turnaround after a 2 1/2-month stretch he described as “pretty awful.”
He missed the cut in five straight tournaments before finishing 62nd and 25 over par at the U.S. Open. He was worn out, kept repeating the same mistakes, but was reluctant to take a break. He finally did last week after missing the cut at the Buick Open.
“For some reason, I had gotten to where my arm swing was a lot higher in my backswing, which really caused me problems because the way I rotate, I don’t really have a lot of drop in my hand and arms,” Dufner said. “It’s always steep to the plane, steep to the plane. It’s pretty tough to play steep at this level. You’ve got to watch your clubface, and I couldn’t hit the shots I wanted to do.”