Golf will be contested at the Olympic Games for the first time since 1904 beginning on Thursday. That’s also the same day the John Deere Classic – the PGA Tour’s only annual event in Illinois – tees off at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, on the outskirts of the Quad Cities.
The Olympics didn’t get the respect anticipated from the game’s top players. Six of the top 10 in the world rankings decided against going to Brazil, many citing concerns over the Zika virus. They included Jordan Spieth, who would be defending this JDC title if he hadn’t decided to take the week off altogether.
Of the four American players competing in Rio three just arrived on Monday. Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed all played in the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship in Hartford, Ct., which ended on Sunday. Only Rickie Fowler was in Rio for the Opening Ceremonies.
So where does that leave the JDC, which was moved from July to accommodate the Olympics?
“The Olympics has put a wedge in our schedule. It’s affected every tournament post-U.S. Open,’’ said Zach Johnson, a PGA Tour mainstay and JDC board member. “I don’t know if there’s a positive for anybody. There may not be many negatives either. It’s just different.’’
Johnson, leading off the pre-tourney media sessions on Tuesday, called the scheduling opposite the Olympics “unfortunate.’’ Normally the JDC is in July, the week before the British Open.
“You can look at it a number of ways,’’ said Johnson. “There are only two weeks left before the (FedEx Cup) Playoffs. There are only so many weeks left of Ryder Cup points. There are a lot of things at stake, so guys want to play and get some points here and there. But the Olympics touched the majors, too. It made you think about when to play and when to rest, which is more important this time of year.’’
Johnson is making his 15th straight JDC appearance and he’s been a major contender the last seven stagings that included a victory (in 2012), a playoff loss, two runner-up finishes and two ties for third.
Last week Johnson was paired the first two rounds with Jim Furyk at the Travelers Championship in Hartford, Ct. Furyk barely survived the 36-hole cut before shocking the golf world with a record 58 on Sunday. TPC Deere Run was the site of Paul Goydos’ 59 in 2010, on the same day that three-time champion Steve Stricker shot 60.
“(Low scores) are much more attainable here,’’ said Johnson. “You have three par-5s and a drivable par-4. TPC River Highlands (in Hartford) is harder top to bottom.’’
So, that could mean another low-scoring JDC. Johnson and Stricker head the field, which was supplemented by more college stars who have just entered the professional ranks than usual. They include Aaron Wise, of Oregon; Charlie Danielson, Illinois; Jordan Niebrugge, Oklahoma State; Jon Rahm, Arizona State; and Lee McCoy, Georgia. Also getting in via a sponsor’s exemption was Frankfort’s Brian Bullington, who will make his PGA Tour debut.
The 156 starters will be playing for an $4.8 million purse with Sunday’s champion receiving $864,000. The starters also include former major championship winners Angel Cabrera, Trevor Immelman, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink and David Toms plus former JDC champions John Senden and Jonathan Byrd.
Here and there
Marty Schiene, the former Illinois Open champion and PGA Tour player, has taken on another coaching challenge. Former head coach at Chicago State and associate coach at Loyola, Schiene is now the assistant to veteran DePaul men’s coach Betty Kaufmann.
Luke Donald, who threw out the first pitch at the Cubs’ game on Tuesday, will have a celebrity partner at his annual Taste of the First Tee event. Rory McIlroy will join him for the Sept. 12 benefit for the First Tee of Greater Chicago at Medinah Country Club.
Bing Singhsumalee, a University of Illinois sophomore from Naperville, made it to the round of 32 at last week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur. Her Illini team has scheduled its second annual pro-am event Oct. 6-7 at Lincolnshire Fields, in Champaign.
Michael Natale and Steve Sawtell combined to win the inaugural Chicago District Golf Association Amateur Four-Ball Championship last week at Eagle Brook, in Geneva. The CDGA’s 15th annual Senior Amateur Championship will conclude its four-day run on Thursday at Wynstone, in North Barrington.
The Dave Pelz Scoring Schools will start at Cog Hill, in Lemont, on Aug. 24. Single day and three-day sessions are available.