At NLU we like to joke that the John Deere Classic is golf’s sixth major (followed closely by Reno-Tahoe, Sanderson Farms, and Mayakoba). As such, we thought it only appropriate to bestow our typical “major” treatment this week with a two part preview.
On a more serious note, this is one of our favorite tournaments of the year because, for one, it’s so much fun to handicap. Young guns are trying to YOTTO amongst the old dudes who own this place (i.e. Stricker/ZJ), and the scoring is crazy-exciting. But it goes deeper than that. The four of us are proud of our midwest ties and enjoy pimping the heartland. The Quad Cities stop has a great history (Payne Stewart won the 1982 edition of the Miller High Life QCO for his first Tour victory; David Toms captured his first title here in 1997; and of course Spieth a year ago at the age of 19), and boasts some of the best community support on the entire tour, along with a great corporate sponsorship situation. In short, it represents a lot of what’s right with the tour and doesn’t get enough recognition for that.
TPC Deere Run
A certified Audubon bird sanctuary! Situated against the Rock River in Silvis, Illinois (one of the four quad cities), birds have been getting poached here since 2000 at an inexplicable clip.
It’s not a coincidence that an announcement came this week that the biggest ever flying bird was discovered. Seriously, since the course moved to this farmland locale in the middle of nowhere, the highest winning score is -16, with Steve Stricker setting the scoring record in 2010 at -26. The course is so easy that Stricker shot 60 on Thursday that year…. and wasn’t the low score of the day. Seriously. He was -11 after day one, and not leading the tournament. Paul Goydos shot an opening round 59, finished at -24, and didn’t win the tournament.
The D.A. Weibring design is less than spectacular both visually, and from a challenge perspective. The wide, rolling fairways give the players a green light to fire away with the driver, and the only par 4’s with any real teeth are the 9th (503 yards), the 15th (484 yards), and the 18th (476 yards, with a tough dogleg, and a green guarded by water). Despite the length of these holes, you’ll still see the longer hitters take 3 woods on them due to the firmness of the fairways. Soly played the course a few years ago, and noted that it’s an easy course even for an amateur.
The Quad Cities are located at the junction of the Mississippi and Rock Rivers, and used to serve as a major port in the mid 19th century during the industrial revolution. Beginning in the late 1970’s, economic conditions forced major industrial restructuring, which led to many companies relocating and scaling back their operations along these rivers. In recent years, significant progress has been made by the city governments to redevelop the region. Despite this, it’s hard not to feel like you’re in a time capsule looking back at what was once such a proud symbol of American capitalism, especially in and around Rock Island.
Set against the Illinois/Iowa border, this tournament is truly the most midwestern event ever. It’s basically a Big Ten clash between Illinois and Iowa fans, but for once they’re rooting for bosses of their sport rather than an Illini-Hawkeye Big Ten pillow fight on the gridiron. Honestly, the people drive hours to root for one of two guys. Those in orange pull for Illinois grad and three time champion Steve Stricker, and those in black and yellow are pulling for Wiz Khalifa Zach Johnson. In true midwestern fashion, just about every fan there thinks they know Strick and ZJ as personal friends, just because they’re wearing their school colors or their uncle’s best buddy’s son’s wife is somehow connected. You’ll hear plenty of first name basis yells on the broadcast for these two players from the masses who treat this event like it’s a family reunion.
It’s impossible to discuss the merits of the Quad Cities without referencing their favorite sons, hailing from Davenport, Iowa:
Spieth’s breakthrough was highlighted by this ridiculous hole out on 18 to get him into the playoff:
And of course, it was met by an awkward player/caddie celebration:
As much as it pains me to make light of this, I have to: Daniel Summerhays (a guy we’re really high on in these parts) carded a final round 72 to finish one shot short of the playoff. That’s the equivalent of shooting 80 in any other event. Hopefully this result’s been gnawing at his soul for the last 361 days or so.
Check back later for Part 2, replete with our picks for the week, some pithy observations, and an ode to Esteban Toledo.