By Dave Shedloski
The PGA TOUR is the only major tour in the world in action this week with the start of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, but a fine field nonetheless has assembled at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois, for the John Deere Classic.
With the likes of two-time major champion Zach Johnson and three-time John Deere winner Steve Stricker headlining the field, this week’s $4.8 million event is sure to be the same kind of shootout we’ve witnessed in the past. Former major winners Geoff Ogilvy, Stewart Cink, Ben Curtis, Keegan Bradley, Mike Weir and Angel Cabrera also are set to tee it up.
The par-71 TPC Deere Run layout, designed in 1999 by former tour member and two-time winner of the event D.A. Weibring, runs 7,268 yards through rolling woodlands along the Rock River. It is no pushover, but the layout has allowed some low scores, including Paul Goydos’ 59 in 2010. Given that Jim Furyk just posted a 58 last week at the Travelers Championship, the PGA Tour contingent now has a new target score.
Longtime CBS Sports golf broadcaster Gary McCord assesses this week’s storylines.
What is the first thing that strikes you about TPC Deere Run?
It looks great with the movement of the land and the trees, and even though it has trouble lurking, it’s been very player-friendly. It is a pretty golf course that is going to give us great views and great golf.
This is a golf course where players have gone low. Paul Goydos shot 59 here in 2010. Steve Stricker 60. We just saw Jim Furyk’s 58. Could we be seeing another run at 59 this week? Or lower?
Are we in that phase of things happening in threes? You never know with these tendencies. I’m a firm believer in trends. Hey, 59 is pedestrian now. Yes, I think we might see another special round this week. I don’t know if someone is going to break 60, but I expect good scores.
Three-time champion Stricker is in the field. He seems to be making a push at age 49. Surprised?
Not anymore. If anyone was that age making a run 30 years ago, you wouldn’t believe it. Back then, when you turned 45, you folded up your tent. Now these guys are pushing through like Vijay [Singh] at 53. Before you’d go nuts if you saw a guy that old making a run. Nowadays guys are staying in shape, and they continue to be great putters, which is usually the first thing to go.
Talk about Zach Johnson’s ability to compete here. He’s only finished outside the top three once in his last seven years with a win in 2012. He’s on the John Deere Classic board of directors. This seems like a great place for another win.
It’s a hometown deal for him, and it’s a perfect golf course for his style of play. You can’t have a 66.57 scoring average over your last 28 rounds the way he has and not feel comfortable. Yeah, I think he’ll be all right.
Even if it’s just out of curiosity, does everyone have one eye on the Olympics this week?
I think everybody is going to have their eye on the Olympics. As far as the golf, everyone is going to be curious. I’m curious. What is it? What’s it going to be like? No one really knows what we’re going to see.
Give us your favorites and dark horses.
Zach Johnson for sure. I mentioned his scoring average, and he’s starting to get in pretty good form. I think a kid who is really going to be good is Jon Rahm. He’s not really a dark horse considering what he’s done lately, with a couple of top-three finishes. But how do you not think he’s going to win here soon?
Journalist and author David Shedloski of Columbus, Ohio, has been covering golf since 1986, first as a daily newspaper reporter and later as a freelance writer for various magazines and Internet outlets. A winner of 23 national writing awards, including 20 for golf coverage, Shedloski is currently a contributing writer for Golf World and GolfDigest.com and serves as editorial director for The Memorial, the official magazine of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. He is the author of three books and has contributed to three others, including the second edition of “Golf For Dummies,” with Gary McCord. He’s a fan of all Cleveland professional sports teams, the poor fellow.