At this year’s John Deere Classic, all eyes will be fixated on Jordan Spieth, the only golfer in the world with a shot at winning the Grand Slam.
Nevertheless, while the 21-year-old winner of this year’s first two major championships is the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 2 in the Official World Golf Rankings, 155 other proud competitors are eager to give Spieth a run for his money, July 9-12, at TPC Deere Run.
That esteemed constituency includes past champions Zach Johnson (2012), Steve Stricker (2009-’11), Jonathan Byrd (2007), Sean O’Hair (2005), Vijay Singh (2003) and David Toms (1997). Johnson has recorded seven top 10 finishes this season, including a T-9 at The Masters, and 11 top 20s in 17 events. He came in sixth at last week’s Travellers Championship. O’Hair lost in a playoff to Spieth at Tampa Bay, and the 50-year-old Singh is “aging backwards” by eschewing most senior events for PGA TOUR competition. Stricker, who has been recovering from injuries, has played sparingly this year, but always loves to play Deere Run.
In addition to Singh, the popular Davis Love is another 50-plus player opting to play in the John Deere Classic. The once and future Ryder Cup captain (2012 and 2016) is a former PGA Championship winner and one of golf’s most highly regarded ambassadors.
With the John Deere Classic offering a charter flight direct to Scotland on Sunday night after the tournament, a number of Open Championship qualifiers have committed: Jonas Blixt, who tied for second with Spieth at the 2014 Masters; Austrailia’s Steven Bowditch, Australian lefty Greg Chalmers, 2009 Open Champion Stewart Cink, 2003 Open Champion Ben Curtis, Matt Every, two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen of South Africa, John Deere Classic defending champion Brian Harman, Zach Johnson, Kevin Kisner, Ryan Moore, Carl Petterson, Jordan Spieth and Robert Streb, with more to come.
The John Deere Classic field also boasts 25 relatively recent PGA TOUR winners, including several from this season - namely Bowditch (AT&T Byron Nelson), Fabian Gomez (FedEx St. Jude), Alex Cejka (Puerto Rico), Every (Arnold Palmer), Moore (CIMB Classic), Streb (McGladrey) and Sangmoon Bae (Fry’s).
Twenty-eight of the players who competed at last month’s U.S. Open will be on the grounds at TPC Deere Run, including Tony Finau, Charlie Beljan and Daniel Summerhays, all of whom finished in the top 30 at Chambers Bay.
Harman recently finished third at the Travellers, and by so doing earned himself a spot in this year’s Open Championship. Harman has recorded three top 10s in recent months, including a T-8 at The Players.
Harman’s fellow Georgia Bulldog alumnus Kevin Kisner has been on a roll since right after the Masters in April. A regular at the John Deere Classic, Kisner lost in two playoffs, at Harbour Town and The Players Championship, but notched three other top 10 finishes before coming in T-12 at last month’s U.S. Open.
Once again, the University of Illinois has a strong presence. In addition to Stricker, recent Illini graduate Brian Campbell will make his professional debut at the John Deere Classic after receiving a sponsor exemption. He will be joined by fellow Illini alumni Scott Langley and Luke Guthrie.
The Chicago area will be represented in the form of five-time PGA TOUR winner Mark Wilson of Elmhurst, and Elgin native Carlos Sainz, Jr., who has been playing the developmental Web.com Tour this year.
In addition to Campbell, up-and-coming young players receiving sponsor exemptions this year are NCAA Division I Individual champion Bryson DeChambeau and Lee McCoy of Georgia.
Tickets for the John Deere Classic are available at www.johndeereclassic.com or by calling 309-762-4653.