Ken Duke Ken Duke, Charlie Wi share first-round lead in John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run

The unheralded duo of Ken Duke and Charlie Wi posted rounds of 7-under-par 64 Thursday to share the first-round lead in the John Deere Classic.

Duke and Wi own a one-shot lead over Kenny Perry, Eric Axley, Garrett Willis and Will MacKenzie heading into today's second round at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill.

The 2006 Nationwide Tour player of the year, Duke set the early pace, shooting his 64 in the morning wave of players. Duke's year has been somewhat inconsistent after a stellar 2007 campaign that saw him finish 45th in the FedEx Cup standings.

In 20 starts in 2008, Duke had missed nine cuts. The highlight of his season to this point was a tie for fourth at the Buick Open two weeks ago along with a tie for sixth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Duke's opening round included birdies on the first and last holes as well as sinking a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 13.

"I got off to a great start and birdied the first hole and made a great save on 12 and ran off a couple in there on 13 and 14 and hit some really good shots," Duke told reporters. "I didn't drive it like I should today, but hit some good shots and made a lot of great putts."

Duke said he didn't have any expectations for his round after a lackluster showing at last week's AT&T National. Thursday marked the first time Duke has been tied for or shared the 18-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

"I just play the game to have fun and next thing you know, you have eight birdies and a bogey or something," Duke said. "It's just fun. Sure, I want to win and I think everyone wants to win if they've never won before out here. I just keep preparing every week and working hard and hopefully I'm at the top someday."

By contrast, Wi has been a picture of consistency in 2008, with seven top-25 finishes in 12 starts entering the John Deere Classic. Competing in his third full season on the PGA Tour, Wi had earnings in excess of $1.1 million in 2007, including his best finish (tie for second) at the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee.

The bogey-free round marked the third 18-hole lead of Wi's PGA Tour career. He opened with rounds of 65 at the 2007 Honda Classic and the 2005 84 Lumber Classic en route to a tie for 13th and a tie for 32nd, respectively.

After missing the cut by a stroke last week at Congressional Country Club, Wi said he deviated from his original plan to skip the John Deere Classic.

"I really thought my game was coming around," Wi told reporters. "I decided to play, and I've been working with Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett. They've really helped me out and things have been going really well.

"I really hit the ball great today and I know I left some putts out there, but you know, I'm really pleased with my round."

Wi said much of his success was simply due to playing with more confidence.

"I really told myself to just go out there and just believe in myself and that my mechanics are there," Wi said.

Perry continued his hot streak with a round of 6-under 65. He is making his ninth career start at the John Deere Classic and has enjoyed plenty of success in the Quad Cities area, with four top-10 finishes, including a runner-up in 1994 and a third-place finish in 1998.

Defending champion Jonathan Byrd opened his title defense with a round of 67. Byrd is attempting to join David Frost (1992-93) and Deane Beman (1971-72) as the only players to successfully defend their John Deere Classic titles.

July 11, 2008

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