Can Stricker make it four at John Deere?
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2012 John Deere Classic | Preview | 11 Jul 2012
The PGA Tour plays what has become the traditional lead-up event to the Open Championship when the John Deere Classic tees off at the TPC Deere Run in Silvis in Illinois on Thursday.
Not only does the event offer a US$4.6 million purse it also offers the one remaining opportunity for a player not otherwise qualified and finishing inside the top five to be on their way to England on a charter plane on Sunday night for next week’s Open Championship.
The tournament was first played in 1972 although it has been played at the D.A. Weibring designed TPC Deere Run since 2000.
The winner in each of the last three years has been Steve Stricker. Stricker has played well enough in recent weeks for him to continue his great run in the event and join some of the famous names of the PGA Tour who have won the same event in four consecutive years.
Tom Morris Jnr, Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and Tiger Woods are others although including Tom Morris as the winner of four very early Open Championships might be drawing a long bow.
Other recent winners of this event and who are playing this week include Jonathan Byrd, Sean O’Hair and John Senden.
Senden’s last event was at the US Open before he returned to Australia for a mid season break. The Dallas based Queenslander finished a very impressive 10th at the Olympic Club and provided he has been able to play at least some golf in his time off then he could do well. It might be that this is a chance to get his game in shape for next week’s Open however and perhaps it is a bit much to expect a great week from him.
Byrd has been putting together several good finishes of late and appears to be a real chance to challenge Stricker’s domination of the event. Byrd also finished runner-up in the event earlier in his career.
O’Hair appears to be returning to some of the form he displayed earlier in his career, a 7th place finish last week at the Greenbrier suggesting he is not far from where he needs to be to contend in this event.
O’Hair also finished runner-up in Hawaii earlier in the year and although he has not played this event for the past three years his win in 2006 tells the story of his comfort zone with the golf course.
Zach Johnson is another with a good record in the event having finished third and runner-up in two of his last three starts in this event. Johnson has just lost his way a little over the past few weeks but it was only two months ago that he won the Crowne Plaza so he could bounce back quickly.
Brendon de Jonge has been inside the top ten in each of his last two starts at the John Deere Classic and importantly for his chances this week he has put himself in position to contend on several occasions of late on the PGA Tour. De Jonge was in second position behind Stricker heading into the final round last year before finishing 7th.
Kyle Stanley seemed to lose his way after what had been a great start to 2012 but there were signs at the recent AT&T that things might be getting better. Stanley finished runner-up last year.
The Australasians in the event other than John Senden include Steven Bowditch, Matt Jones, Nathan Green, Mathew Goggin, Nick O’Hern, Stuart Appleby, Rod Pampling, Gavin Coles and New Zealander Danny Lee.