Stricker and Day standouts at John Deere
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2011 John Deere Classic | Preview | 06 Jul 2011
The John Deere Classic is this week’s PGA Tour event, the tournament played once again at its long time home at the TPC Deere Run in Silvis in the west of Illinois.
The event was known for many years as the Quad Cities Open but became the John Deere Classic just prior to moving to TPC Deere Run in 2000.
Given its positioning the week before the Open Championship on the other side of the Atlantic, the event has done well to attract several golfers who will tee it up at Royal St Georges. One of the reasons for that is that the event organisers have set up a charter flight from Chicago to London to get the players to southern England by Monday morning.
Even the defending Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen is in the field, his farming background and his liking for John Deere equipment the catalyst for his involvement this week. Oosthuizen took time to visit the nearby John Deere factory soon after his arrival and was like a kid in a lolly shop.
“Yeah, I mean, this morning was what I had been hoping to do for a while, coming to the factory and just seeing how everything is made,” said the South African. “It was amazing just to walk through it and have that experience. Yeah, I was looking forward to playing this tournament. I was on and off, should I come, should I not come, but I’m such a big John Deere fan that I decided to come, and travelling from here back to the Open with the plane makes it a lot easier.
The tournament offers an opportunity for the leading player inside the top five at week’s end and not otherwise exempt to the Open Championship to earn a start at Royal St Georges. So the charter flight might yet have one or two more passengers on it than is the case at present.
The winner in each of the last two years and the leading world ranked player in the field, Steve Stricker, will start as the favourite. Stricker has not missed a cut since August of 2009 and has been in fine form in 2011. Two starts ago he won the Memorial event and if he was to win this event for the third occasion then it would be of little to surprise to anyone.
No PGA Tour event is quite that straightforward however. Stricker faces a field which includes one of the game’s hottest prospects, Jason Day, who returns to the scene of his very first PGA Tour event in 2006.
This was the first of seven invites Day received in 2006, making the cut in five but his decision to return the favour to the tournament organisers especially now when his involvement in the tournament can add some serious value to the event is commendable.
It might be that in future years he sees the preparation for a major championship differently but after a two week break during which he and his wife Ellie spent time in Mexico on holiday, Day will be keen to get his game back to tournament sharpness as quickly as possible.
Day made the cut on debut in the tournament back then when his appearance was, to some extent, overshadowed by the presence of Michelle Wie in the field. He made the cut while Wie withdrew from exhaustion after 27 holes. Following his recent US Open performance Day has a great opportunity to contend again.
Day has played this event on four occasions, making the cut in each and finishing 15th twice. To say the least he is a considerably more credentialed player now.
Zach Johnson is having a solid season in 2011 and, as a player who finished runner-up in this event two years ago, has a good chance of winning for the first time this season. He seldom misses a cut these days.
David Toms has been a little inconsistent in recent weeks and has only played this venue on three previous occasions with very little to show for it. That he was able to finish runner-up at the Players Championship and win the Colonial however tells the story of a player whose game is in pretty good shape.
Jonathan Byrd has had a good season to date, winning in Hawaii and finishing runner-up at Quail Hollow. He missed the cut at the US Open but was not alone in that. Byrd has regularly played this event well, winning in 2007 and finishing runner-up in 2003. He has a good chance.
Charles Howell seems to have found good form of late finishing third at last week’s AT&T National. He finished 3rd in this event the first year it was played at this venue back in 2000 and it would not surprise to see him in the mix on Sunday.
Australians in the field other than Day are Steven Bowditch, Greg Chalmers, Nathan Green, former winner Mark Hensby, Matt Jones, Marc Leishman, Jarrod Lyle, Rod Pampling, Cameron Percy, Aron Price and Michael Sim.
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