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Russell Henley admitted he has felt "a little lost" this PGA Tour season.

Over the past year, Henley has dropped from 47th to 200th in the world rankings and has missed 15 cuts in the last 26 events he's played, including six of his last seven.

Whatever he's been missing, he found in the first round of Thursday's John Deere Classic, shooting a 7-under 64 and finishing the day two shots back of leader Roberto Diaz.

"I've been putting in a lot of work on my game, and I felt confident going into today," Henley said. "I don't think I've ever lost the belief that I can have a nice tournament or have a nice round. It's just a matter of a few bumps in the road here and there."

Henley may not have totally lost the belief in his game, but he admitted it wavered. When that happened, all he could do was persevere.

"Just confidence in my game, just not feeling comfortable, like I don't have a lot of belief in what I'm doing," he said. "But lately I've been continuing to work hard, and it's starting to come back a little bit."

Henley's slide has been essentially contained to this season. He has three wins on Tour, the last coming in 2017 at the Shell Houston Open, and he finished tied for third at that season's finale Tour Championship. He only missed seven cuts in 23 events the following season. And yet, despite all his recent struggles, he didn't feel like his game was far off from returning to that form.

So Thursday was a nice affirmation of what Henley is doing.

"I've been hitting it well lately, my scores haven't really shown it," he said. "I felt like I hit a lot of approach shots close, made a few putts when I gave myself the opportunity. It really wasn't a very stressful round, I didn't feel like I had to work too hard to make par. Just putting the ball in play, and I'm thankful for a nice round."

One of the highlights of Henley's round was a 48-foot, 6-inch putt for birdie on the 225-yard par 3 seventh hole. Henley's reaction was very nonchalant after draining the putt, walking straight to his bag to grab a drink of water.

"I was just thankful that I hit it the right speed," Henley said. "When I saw it go down the hill, I knew it was going to be about the right speed, and that was really all I was trying to accomplish. That's a tough par 3 today. For it to drop in was cool, but I was just happy that I hit a nice putt."

That putt gave Henley the outright lead at 8-under, but he hit his tee shot on No. 9 into the rough and ended up making bogey, his only one of the round, coming on his final hole of the day.

"I probably should have hit 3-wood there," Henley said. "It got firm, tight driving hole and just didn't put my best swing on it."

This is Henley's best start to a tournament since the RBC Canadian Open in June, where he opened with a 5-under 65. But he followed that up with a 74 to miss the cut at 1-under.

So he's not celebrating a return to form just yet.

"I know as well as anybody, you've got to play a lot of golf for it to matter," Henley said. "It's a great start, but I've got a lot of work to do."

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