Set on what used to be the home to Friendship Farms, where champion Arabian horses were bred and groomed to perfection, a different kind of thoroughbred will be on display this week at the TPC Deere Run.
With a charter flight made available to whisk them off of to next week’s Open Championship once the trophy has been awarded Sunday, a strong contingent of players has committed to the 40th playing of the John Deere Classic (JDC). The highest John Deere finisher not already qualified will also get a surprise seat on that plane. It provides the basis for what could be another incredible week in the Quad Cities area.
In 2009 Wisconsin native Steve Stricker took down the trophy at the John Deere and he returns to defend and lead a quality field that includes the likes of Rickie Fowler, K.J. Choi, recent Travelers Champion winner Bubba Watson and two quality former N.C. State WolfPack players – Tim Clark and Carl Pettersson. Pettersson is coming off a 6th place finish at the AT&T National.
Finishing just behind Stricker last year, in a tie for second, was Zach Johnson who warmed up for the tournament this week by playing in his nearby hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa with some friends and family. Johnson, the 2007 Masters Champion, has almost become the unofficial face of the tournament with his local ties. “There is not anything I don’t like about this golf tournament,” said Johnson on Tuesday. He also mentions that often finds himself recruiting players to play in the John Deere Classic. “I brag it up all the time,” he commented on the subject while citing the ease for players to transition from the John Deere to the Open Championship with the courtesy jet on hand and the hosting job done by John Deere and the community. “It’s become a family oriented event. It’s not a hard place for a family to come during the week of the golf tournament.”
Yes, in four decades, even when many new tournaments came to the forefront, The John Deere Classic (still referred to as the Quad Cities by many people for its pre-sponsor name) has thrived by taking an endearing community approach. At the same time they have stepped up to compete with other events with a growing purse ($4.4 million this year) and a quality golf course that players have grown to admire in just a few short years of its use.
Johnson says the turf is always perfect at Deere Run and that when the conditions are right it tests every facet of your game. “It matures every year,” said Johnson when asked about the layout. He comments that even when it is wet you still have to execute and the finishing holes all have a lot of character. “Everybody likes the course that plays here; I haven’t heard a negative comment. Is it the best course in the world? No. Is it the best course on the tour? No. But it’s a good test,” he stated with sincerity.
Much of the kudos for the success of the JDC falls on the shoulders of Tournament Director Clair Peterson. The silver-haired man receives great respect from the players. At the Transitions Championship this March, when Peterson was working the range looking for tournament commitments, I can’t say I have ever heard more heartfelt apologies by players who would not able to make it this week. The JDC is the little tournament that could and the players respect that. Of course, the 767 charter to Scotland does not hurt either and it was a brilliant idea for the JDC and RBC Canadian Open to share the cost of the plane for the over and back journey. The result is a stronger field for both events, especially among the domestic crowd which is especially important for the JDC, held in the heartland of America.
"We're very happy that so many of today's top American players are choosing to compete in the John Deere Classic," Peterson said. "They love TPC Deere Run and really enjoy the way they're treated by the fans and in the community.”
CBS picks up the weekend television coverage this week with The Golf Channel, as usual, with the broadcast for the opening rounds.
This report provided to GolfWRX.com courtesy of Flagstick Golf Magazine (www.flagstick.com)