As the lead-in to The Open Championship, perhaps the most anticipated event of the PGA Tour season, it has been difficult for the John Deere Classic to attract a level of attention commensurate with the pride and amusement brought to it by its fervent small-town local crowd.
That is not to say that it has never made headlines. The tournament took center stage in the sports world in 2004 and 2005, when teen sensation Michelle Wie attempted to become the first woman to finish a PGA Tour event. It received further attention in 2010 when Paul Goydos became the fourth player in Tour history to shoot a 59.
One could even say that the tournament birthed a superstar: it was the site of Jordan Spieth’s iconic bunker hole-out that forced a three man playoff he would win, Spieth’s first professional victory at the ripe age of 19.
The tournament might lack front-end star power, an unfortunate side effect of next week being played six time zones away from Silvis, IL, but do not trying telling anyone in the field that it’s an insignificant event. For many, this week has the potential to make a career.
For some, this is a paycheck to continue a dream livelihood. And for the local community, this is their Super Bowl. No, you will not see Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, or Phil Mickelson teeing it up this week in the Quad Cities, but what you will see is an eclectic group of talented professionals leaving everything they have in front of one of the most appreciative crowds on Tour.
The John Deere Classic started as a rare Iowa event, playing as a satellite event called the Quad Cities Open in 1971, and became an official event the following season. The Hawkeye State only had hosting honors for four years before the tournament moved to Coal Valley, Illinois, and in 2000, the event permanently moved to TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois.
The inaugural event was won by Deane Beman, a man who would go on to become PGA commissioner. Beman won again in 1972, making the John Deere Classic half of his four career victories. Over the years, other notable winners have included Dave Stockton, Roger Maltbie, Scott Hoch, Payne Stewart, David Frost, Vijay Singh, Kenny Perry, Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson, and Jordan Spieth.
TPC Deere Run was designed by D.A. Weibring, a three-time winner of the John Deere Classic, which ties him for first all-time with Stricker. The scoring is typically very low, as the last eight tournaments have featured a champion with a score of -19 or lower. This was also the site of the fourth 59 in Tour history, shot by Paul Goydos in 2010.
The scoring was so low that year that despite the 59, Goydos only led by a single stroke after the first round. That edition was taken by Steve Stricker, who finished at a tournament record 26-under par.
The course was also the site of Michelle Wie’s 2004 and 2005 attempts to make the cut at a men’s event, and was the location of Jordan Spieth’s first career victory in 2013, as the then 19-year-old became the first teenager to win on Tour since 1931.
The John Deere Classic has had considerable problems attracting marquee players, as its traditional place on the schedule is the week before The Open Championship.
TPC Deere Run is not analogous to a typical Open Championship course, which does not make it ideal to use as an Open tune-up. The considerable time change hurts as well. The John Deere has had to resort to sponsoring a charter flight to Europe on the Sunday night the tournament concludes.
As of this year, the tournament purse has finally risen to an amount where the winner gets a seven-figure check, but the field is still comparatively weak.
Name: TPC Deere Run
Where: Silvis, Illinois
Vitals: 7268 yards, par 71
Architect: D.A. Weibring
Winning Share: $1,008,000
FedEx Cup Points: 500
The defending champion of the John Deere Classic is Ryan Moore. After opening with three consecutive rounds of 6-under 65, Moore shot a final round 67 to finish two strokes ahead of Ben Martin.
Moore’s lead reached five strokes on the front nine, but even though he finished his round with eight straight pars, nobody was able to put considerable pressure on him, as all four players who finished T3 or better (Moore, Martin, Morgan Hoffman, and Whee Kim) had par on the last four holes.
Other Recent Champions
2015: Jordan Spieth
2014: Brian Harman
2013: Jordan Spieth
2012: Zach Johnson
2011: Steve Stricker
Lowest Final Score: 258 (-26) shot by Steve Stricker in his 2010 victory
Low Round: 59 (Paul Goydos)
Round 1: 4:00-7:00 PM (Golf Channel)
Round 2: 4:00-7:00 PM (Golf Channel)
Round 3: 1:00-2:30 PM (Golf Channel); 3:00-6:00 PM (CBS)
Round 4: 1:00-2:30 PM (Golf Channel); 3:00-6:00 PM (CBS)
Storyline 1: Last Chance For Royal Birkdale
Of the 156 players in the John Deere Classic field, 15 are currently slated to play in next week’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
For the 141 in the field who aren’t currently Open-qualified, TPC Deere Run provides one last opportunity for one last spot. Last week’s tournament, the Greenbrier Classic awarded four slots, the same as the Quicken Loans National the week prior, but with a weaker field, the Open awards just one spot, to the highest finisher inside the top 5 who has not already qualified.
The following is a list of the top five players in the field who are currently not qualified for the Open Championship:
5. Bryson DeChambeau
The 23-year-old has decent fanfare, which would certainly be good for Open Championship ratings, but a mid-season slump destroyed his chances of qualifying.
After eight straight missed cuts from April to June, however, DeChambeau seems to have figured something out, finishing T24, T17, and T14 in his last three outings, respectively. In that three-week span, he has six rounds of 67 or better.
4. Ben Martin
Last year’s runner-up, Martin would love to qualify for his third straight Open Championship, but does not currently have a spot in the field. H
is 2017 season has been mostly unimpressive, as he has just $600,000 in earnings despite entering 21 events, but between his great showing at last year’s John Deere, and a recent T5 at the Quicken Loans National two weeks ago, he is one of the best bets in the field to qualify.
3. Daniel Summerhays
The 33-year-old from Utah has shown an affinity for big events, finishing T8 at last year’s U.S. Open and third at the PGA Championship, making him an interesting sleeper pick if he is able to qualify for Royal Birkdale.
Summerhays played in the final Sunday grouping last month at The Memorial Tournament, but a final round 78 dropped him into a tie for 10th. His game suits TPC Deere Run reasonably well, but he will need to hit more greens than he has most of the year.
2. Kevin Streelman
The two-time PGA Tour winner has missed the past two editions of The Open Championship and no doubt covets another chance.
A T29 at last week’s Greenbrier Classic snapped a four-tournament streak of finishes of T18 or better. Streelman has missed the cut at his last two attempts at TPC Deere Run, but has finished highly before, finishing 8th in both 2009 and 2012.
1. Danny Lee
Given his recent tear, it is very surprising that Lee is not already booked for Royal Birkdale. Among his last seven starts, the 26-year-old Kiwi has finishes of T3, T5, 6, and T9. He has risen from 125th to 76th in the world rankings over that time, which while impressive, is not high enough for the top 50 Open exemption.
After an embarrassing 78-77 showing at Royal Troon last year, Lee is likely itching to get back out there and redeem himself. He skipped last year’s John Deere to represent New Zealand in The Olympics, but in his last showing at TPC Deere Run, Lee rode a third-round 62 to a T3 finish. A repeat showing might be enough to get him into the Open Championship field, if neither the winner nor the runner-up have also not qualified.
Storyline 2: Moore Defends
Ryan Moore’s nearly perfect 2016 John Deere Classic victory, where he bogeyed just two holes the entire week, was the 34-year-old UNLV product’s fifth career victory, and first since taking the CIMB Classic in Malaysia in 2014.
The win started a hot stretch of play as Moore went on to post top-eight finishes in three of his next five events, all elite-field FedEx Cup Playoff events. He played so well during that time that Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III used his final captain’s pick on him. Moore rewarded Love’s confidence by scoring two points for the American squad in three matches, including the clinching point during Sunday singles.
Moore’s torrid finish to the 2016 led many to believe that he was finally going to capitalize on the incredible amount of promise he showed as an amateur superstar in 2005.
Unfortunately, it has not really worked out that way for Moore, as a T9 finish at The Masters is his only top 10 finish since early January. Moore’s biggest problems have been with his short game, as he has incredibly plummeted from 29th in strokes gained: around-the-green to a dismal 186th, largely due to poor scrambling.
Moore will be coming to TPC Deere Run well-rested. A shoulder injury has prevented him from playing the past five weeks, forcing him to be the only golfer in the top 50 of the world rankings to miss the U.S. Open.
This will be his first start since missing the cut at The Memorial Tournament, and he would definitely like to iron the wrinkles in his game before teeing up at Royal Birkdale next week.
Storyline 3: A Return To Quad Cities Glory For Stricker and Zach?
The biggest surprise to come out of last year’s John Deere Classic was the surprisingly poor performances of Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson, who finished T52 and T34 respectively.
The duo, both of who are somewhat local products, had dominated the tournament for much of the previous decade. For comparison, here are their other recent results at the John Deere:
Stricker, now 50 years old, has seen a bit of a dropoff in productivity in 2017, but is still a threat at most courses. He has missed just one cut in nine events with four finishes of T16 or better.
In his most recent PGA Tour outing, he finished T16 at last month’s U.S. Open. He has also played in five Champions Tour events, finishing in the top 8 in four of them. He does not drive it far, which isn’t a requirement for TPC Deere Run anyway, but he currently leads the Tour in driving accuracy, and is 11th in total putting.
Johnson’s season has well below the standard he has set. Since February, the 41-year-old has just two starts out of 11 events where he finished inside the top 25.
The two-time major winner has been irrelevant in the bigger events, missing the cut at The Masters and THE PLAYERS, and posting a T27 at the U.S. Open. Like Stricker, Johnson is a short hitter who is still accurate off the tees, but he has been uncharacteristically poor with his irons this season, ranking 166th on Tour in greens in regulation percentage.
Both players have qualified for The Open Championship, Stricker by finishing in the top five of last year’s Open, and Johnson by winning the 2015 edition, so neither will have that extra sense of urgency to perform at TPC Deere Run, but neither should have trouble staying motivated either. Both have a formerly excellent reputation in this event they would like back.
Other Notables in the Field
At #20 in the world, Berger is the highest ranked player in the John Deere Classic field. This will be his TPC Deere Run debut, but with the way he has played lately (for the most part), lack of familiarity may not matter.
Berger has finished in the top two in two of his past three starts, winning the FedEx St. Jude Classic for the second consecutive year, and finishing runner-up at the Travelers Championship, where he was the victim of Jordan Speith’s playoff bunker hole-out. He has been a bit up-and-down this season, but he has been good enough to sit inside the top 10 of the FedEx Cup standings.
The 2014 John Deere Classic champion has continued to improve his profile, most notably by finishing runner-up at last month’s U.S. Open. He also won the Wells Fargo Championship in May, and has finished in the top 25 of half his events (11 of 22).
His first class short game- he leads the Tour in total putting – makes him one of the best fits in the field for TPC Deere Run.
A poor performance at the U.S. Open (T58) and a surprise missed cut at The Greenbrier last week cooled off Kisner’s hot streak, but his season as a whole has still been tremendous. He has a win (Dean & Deluca Invitational), two runner-ups, and three additional top 10s.
At No. 8 in the FedEx Cup standings, Kisner has the best ranking of anyone in the field; a testament to how well he has played this year. Perhaps the most impressive thing about his season: he ranks 45th or better in every strokes gained statistic. He places 6th in strokes gained: total.
Consistency has always been a problem for the 40-year-old Hoffman, but there is no questioning his play as of late. In his past two starts, he chased a T8 at the U.S. Open with a T3 at the Travelers Championship.
Hoffman also has five top 10s on the season and absolutely left The Masters field in the dust with his first round 65 at Augusta. He has not played this event since a missed cut in 2013, but he did play well in 2010, finishing in a tie for seventh place.
The incredible comeback season of Kyle Stanley hit its high point in his last start, as he outdueled Charles Howell III in a playoff at the Quicken Loans National to win his first event since 2012. Stanley also posted top 6 finishes at THE PLAYERS and The Memorial Tournament.
His putting has not always been on this season, but he has been phenomenal off the tees and ranks 3rd on Tour in greens in regulation percentage. Stanley has finished T22 (2016) and T18 (2015) in his last two John Deere Classic appearances.