Pro Golf Weekly previews the PGA Tour stop at TPC Deere Run in this week’s 2018 John Deere Classic Primer.
Eddie Money is not scheduled to entertain this week at the John Deere Classic, but that’s okay. No one will need to hear “Two Tickets to Paradise,” when the reality is only one will be on the line.
The organizers of the long-running Quad Cities event, though, have been more than resourceful when it comes to forming the strongest field possible, despite the clear disadvantages of being situated in a small Midwest location while holding down a less than ideal spot on the Tour’s schedule – the week prior to the British Open, the only major played outside the United States.
Since 2008, they have utilized a charter jet to take players from their field who have earned a spot in the Open across the Atlantic to that year’s site in the rota, and one of those players is almost always a last-minute addition — one of the prime incentives the Deere can offer is that the last spot in the Open field goes to the top Deere player not already in, as long as that player is a top-five finisher at the Deere.
A total of 14 players from the Deere’s 156 entries are already assured of spots in next week’s championship at Carnoustie. One of the prevailing themes tied to the history of this tournament is its frequent status as a launching pad for talented young players.
Jordan Spieth became the first teenager to win on the PGA Tour since 1931 when he claimed his first career victory at the 2013 John Deere. Jason Day made his first PGA Tour start on a sponsor’s invite in 2006. Other talented young players who have played this event on sponsor’s invites over the years include Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed and defending champion Bryson DeChambeau.
For Spieth and DeChambeau, it not only made them first-time winners on the PGA Tour, but it suddenly put them in the field for the oldest major of all, the Open Championship.
Will a similar story emerge this year? This week’s field includes five young players with impressive amateur resumes who are just beginning their pro careers, along with a lot of tour veterans who would like to both improve their standing in the FedEx Cup race and get a shot at making some noise in the Open.
Here are more details on what to watch for this week at the TPC Deere Run along the Rock River, just a couple of miles south of where the Mississippi River divides Moline, Ill. and Davenport, Iowa.
2018 JOHN DEERE CLASSIC
Official Name: John Deere Classic
Dates: July 12-15, 2018
Where: Silvis, Ill.
Course: TPC Deere Run
Distance: Par 71, 7,268 yards
Architect: D.A. Weibring/Chris Gray
Title Sponsor: John Deere
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Winning Share: $1,044,000
Defending Champion Bryson DeChambeau
Marquee Players: DeChambeau, Francesco Molinari, Zach Johnson, Steve Stricker, Andrew Landry, Patrick Rodgers, Austin Cook, Aaron Wise, Patton Kizzire, Brice Garnett, Scott Piercy, Ryan Moore, Chesson Hadley, Joaquin Niemann, Kyle Stanley, Wesley Bryan, Harold Varner III
WATCH & FOLLOW
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, Ill., and in 2000, the event permanently moved to TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill.
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 nine tournaments have featured a champion with a score of -18 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.
JDC HISTORY: TITLES/NAMES
1999-18: John Deere Classic
1995-98: Quad City Classic
1986-94: Hardee’s Golf Classic
1985: Lite Quad Cities Open
1982-84: Miller High Life QCO
1980-81: Quad Cities Open
1975-79: Ed McMahon-Jaycees Quad Cities Open
1972-74: Quad Cities Open
JDC HISTORY: WINNERS
2017: Bryson DeChambeau (-18)
2016: Ryan Moore (-22)
2015: Jordan Spieth (-20)
2014: Brian Harman (-22)
2013: Jordan Spieth (-19)
2012: Zach Johnson (-20)
2011: Steve Stricker (-22)
JDC HISTORY RECORDS
258 (-26) Steve Stricker (2010)
3 – D.A. Weibring (1979, 1991, 1995), Steve Stricker (2009-11)
2 – Deane Beman (1971-72), Scott Hoch (1980, 1984), David Frost (1992-93), Jordan Spieth (2013, 2015)
DEFENDING: BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU
With seven birdies over his final 11 holes, including a thrilling winding putt on 18, Bryson DeChambeau shot a 6-under 65 to clip 54-hole leader Patrick Rodgers by one stroke and win the 2017 John Deere Classic, his first career PGA Tour victory.
TPC Deere Run is famous for surrendering especially low scores, but it played a bit tougher than usual last year, as DeChambeau’s -18 was the highest winning score at the John Deere in nine years, and just the second time since 2008 that the winning score was below 20-under.
The best of DeChambeau’s week, however, occurred at a great time, as he found seven birdies over his last 11 holes. Scoring was very tight early in the round, but even as the leaderboard became more congested, DeChambeau was still well under-the-radar, as his first seven holes comprised of six pars and a bogey.
Then on No. 8, he made his move. A birdie-3 on the par-4 8th allowed him to make the turn at even-par. His play was then impeccable on the back nine, as he had back-to-back birdies three times, with the last two coming on 17 and 18.
Patrick Rodgers, the 54-hole leader, who was also attempting to win his first career title, still looked to have the advantage when DeChambeau hit the clubhouse at 18-under, but a painful bogey on the par-5 17th dropped Rodgers one back, and then he was unable to make birdie from off the green on 18, meaning a win and an Open Championship invite for DeChambeau.
FINAL TOP 5
1. Bryson DeChambeau -18
2. Patrick Rodgers -17
3. Wesley Bryan -16
3. Rick Lamb -16
5. Steve Stricker -15
5. Zach Johnson -15
5. Jonathan Byrd -15
5. Scott Stallings -15
5. Daniel Berger -15
THE FIELD AT TPC DEERE RUN
Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods made news this week, confirming they are nailing down plans to play a $10 million made-for-TV match. That might feel like old news to Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker, two Midwestern products who at times have seemingly made the John Deere Classic their own two-man big-money televised match.
Wisconsin native Stricker won the Deere title three straight years from 2009 through 2011, making him the most recent PGA Tour player to post a three-peat. He’s also the all-time leader in earnings at the John Deere and has had four finishes inside the top 11 since his win streak, including a tie for fifth last year.
Stricker also had a tie for fifth in 2012, when he was trying to make it four in a row but had his streak broken by Iowa native Johnson who, in a stat that seems hard to believe, claimed his only John Deere title that year.
Johnson in contention at this event feels like an annual certainty, and he did finish as runner-up the next two years after his win (and had one more behind Stricker in 2009). He’s also placed third two times at the Deere, and hasn’t missed the cut here since 2007. Like Stricker, he was also one of those who tied for fifth in last year’s tournament.
Defending champ Bryson DeChambeau has certainly picked up the momentum in his career since last year’s victory. He’s coming in off a tie for ninth at the Travelers Championship, a tie for 25th at the U.S. Open and his second career Tour win, claiming the Memorial Tournament title. He’s tied for third in top 10 finishes this season with seven, including a highly impressive five top-five showings. Currently No. 6 in the FedEx Cup rankings, he could vault all the way to the top spot if he is able to repeat last year’s victory.
Italy’s Francesco Molinari is not only the highest-ranked player in the field, currently at No. 15 in the Official World Golf Rankings, it could be reasonably argued that he’s the hottest golfer in the world at this moment. In his last four starts, he won the BMW PGA Championship and finished second in the Italian Open, with both of those being premier Rolex Series events on the European Tour, and then followed with a tie for 25th at the U.S. Open and a dominating eight-shot victory at the Quicken Loans National. It will be extremely interesting to see if he can keep the momentum up this week against the weakest field he’s faced all year, and if he does so, what that will translate into for his Open Championship prospects.
Ryan Moore is another John Deere regular whose record as a long-standing visitor to this event is just a shade behind that of Stricker and Johnson. Moore did win the Deere title in 2016, and is enjoying a pretty solid 2018 season thus far, with four top 10 finishes to his credit.
Andrew Landry won earlier in the spring at the Valero Texas Open, and he’s had the kind of year that could test any player’s patience. He’s only made nine cuts in 20 starts this season, but he’s collected top 10s in five of those events. He’s coming in off a tie for 8th at the Quicken Loans National, and in his only other previous appearance at the John Deere, he posted a tie for eighth in 2016.
Rounding out any discussion of possible contenders are two more groups of players — the young and the younger.
The young are this year’s class of PGA Tour rookies, with three of them already flashing great form. Austin Cook and Aaron Wise are both official rookies who each have a victory this year and rank 24th and 25th, respectively, in the FedEx Cup standings. Another intriguing rookie is 19-year-old Joaquin Niemann, the former world No. 1 amateur from Chile, who has made nine PGA Tour starts under Special Temporary Member status and produced four top 10 finishes.
Five new pros with even less experience than those three will all be playing this week on sponsor exemptions. Dylan Meyer is a former All-American at the University of Illinois who made a strong showing with a tie for 20th at the U.S. Open. Doug Ghim is a former University of Texas golfer who won this year’s Ben Hogan Award for best male college golfer. He also ascended to the ranking of No. 1 amateur in the world earlier this spring, before turning pro last month. Ghim was the only amateur to make the cut at this year’s Masters.
Norman Xiong is just 19 years old and played only one year of college golf at Oregon before deciding to turn pro. A product of the First Tee program, he was up to No. 5 in the world amateur rankings this spring. Nick Hardy was a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year at the University of Illinois, and posted a tie for 55th finish on a sponsor’s exemption into last year’s Deere field. Broc Everett is an Iowa native who was the medalist at the 2018 NCAA Division I championship, while playing for Augusta University.
If history from past Deere events is any indication, at least a few of these names could be in contention when weekend play rolls around.
FULL FIELD & ODDS TO WIN
Credits: PGA Tour Media, Getty Images