John Deere last chance for Open hopefuls
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2008 John Deere Classic | Preview | 08 Jul 2008
The John Deere Classic starts on Thursday and offers one final chance for Open Championship hopefuls to gain a start next week. The winner or the leading player in the first five this week, not otherwise exempt for the Open, gets an automatic start at Royal Birkdale. The winners in each of the last three seasons, Jonathan Byrd, John Senden and Sean O’Hair have made the mad dash across the Atlantic to tee it up and have done reasonably well.
The very much inform, and leading world ranked player, in this week’s lineup, Kenny Perry, will start the favourite despite the fact that he has played the event only once since it moved to the TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois.
The one occasion in which Perry has here was last year when, after opening with a first round of 65, he eventually finished 11th. Perry’s current form is hard to fault and perhaps that he is not even playing next week’s Open Championship, gives him an opportunity to focus on the job at hand this week.
Tim Clark often plays the Scottish Open at this time of the year and in 2005 won that event and so it is a little surprising to find him playing this week opposite the Loch Lomond tournament as he is entered for next week’s Open Championship.
Clark has yet to win on the PGA Tour but it could just be that after seven years, this week offers a very good chance to do so. He finished runner up to Jonathan Byrd last year and his recent form includes a runner up finish at the Crowne Plaza event at Colonial. Clark blew a four shot lead over the closing stages of this event last year.
Defending champion, Jonathan Byrd, is not in particularly good form of late but is certainly better placed than when he arrived at this event last year. He has a love of this golf course as not only did he win in 2007, he also finished runner up to Vijay Singh in 2003, suggesting that the layout suits his game.
Nathan Green led into the final round last year before finishing 3rd and although his form in recent weeks has been nothing to get excited about, it might be that he will do well. Green has struggled with his driving in recent weeks but a week off last week has hopefully put that right.
Peter Lonard has played this event just the once as he has often been on his way to the Open Championship when this tournament comes around. He is in the field this week and following his course record equalling final round of 63 at Congressional last week, his chances are looking promising for a good week. Lonard, not normally one to admit as much, has been excited about his form since returning a month ago from a six week break to allow a back injury to heal.
Aaron Baddeley is the second highest world ranked player in this field behind Perry and although not at the peak of his game at present he is not exactly playing poorly. Baddeley has played this event just once, missing the cut when he did but a much better showing can be expected of him this week. He is one of the few players in this field with a start next week.
Tommy Armour III seems to have found a rich vein of form of late, especially by his standards. He was runner up in Hartford and third last week at Congressional. The 48 year old continues a run for the over 40’s in 2008, many of whom seem to have found a new lease of life. He finished 18th in the event last year, his best finish at the TPC Deere Run.
Camillo Villegas is on the verge of breaking through for his first PGA Tour win although this is not a golf course that has been kind to him. Two recent top tens, including one at the US Open, suggest his form is close to his best however and on that basis alone he stands a very good chance.
Previous winners, Sean O’Hair and John Senden must be given a chance with Senden playing well last week at the AT&T after a run of poor tournaments.
Other Australians in the field include Jason Day, who returns to the scene of his first ever PGA Tour event in 2006. He made the cut then as an 18-year-old and his effort this week will be of interest.
Previous winner Mark Hensby, Matt Jones, Gavin Coles, Stephen Leaney, Andrew Buckle, Nick Flanagan, Andrew Buckle, Steve Allan and David Lutterus make up a lengthy list of Australian hopefuls.