At first glance it appeared the John Deere Classic got a bad deal when the PGA Tour moved the tournament off its usual July dates and scheduled the tourney opposite next week’s Olympics’ golf competition in Brazil.
Subsequently, though, a large contingent of top players – among them JDC defending champion Jordan Spieth and world No. 1 Jason Day – pulled out of the Olympics citing concerns over the Zika virus. That diminished the quality of the field in Brazil and opened the door for at least some of the potential Olympians to play at the JDC instead.
None have entered as yet, but – with the four tourney rounds beginning next Thursday, Aug. 11 — they still have until Friday afternoon to do it. Even without any of the players opting to skip the Olympics, the JDC won’t be suffering with its new, temporary dates. Next year the tourney will return to its familiar place on the schedule, the week before the British Open.
“This year has been a little different,’’ said JDC director Clair Peterson. “It’s given us a little extra time for setup and sponsors and volunteers have stuck with us. Plus, ticket sales are about the same as they were last year at this time.’’
In a normal year the JDC, played at TPC Deere Run in Silvis on the outskirts of Moline, would fall in the middle of the four major championships. Because of the compressed schedule the last of the four majors for this year ended on Sunday with Jimmy Walker’s victory in the PGA Championship.
JDC mainstays Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker will be in next week’s field and more big name players might consider entering with FedEx Cup Playoff and Ryder Cup points still on the line. Those events fall after the last putt drops in the first Olympics’ golf competition since 1904.
To compensate in part for the date change Peterson was given more sponsor exemptions this year. He’s always used them wisely, and this time he invited five college stars who just turned professional – NCAA medalist Aaron Wise (Oregon), Big Ten player of the year Charlie Danielson (Illinois), Jon Rahm (Arizona State), Lee McCoy (Georgia) and Jordan Niebrugge (Oklahoma State).
On Monday Peterson added a promising Chicago area player, Frankfort’s Brian Bullington, to the list. He played at Lincoln-Way East High School and the University of Iowa before joining the PGA’s Latinoamerica Tour after turning pro a year ago.
Bullington, who finished 25th in last week’s Illinois Open, has lots of experience at TPC Deere Run. He played in four tournaments there – but all came before he even entered high school. The Plantation Junior Golf Tour held an annual event there.
“I played for the first time there when I was 9 years old, so I’ve come pretty much full circle to play my first PGA Tour event there,’’ said Bullington.
“We’ve been the launching point for the careers of players coming out of college, and we like that,’’ said Peterson, mentioning Johnson, Day, Spieth, Justin Thomas, Camilo Villegas, Tiger Woods, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Lucas Glover, Webb Simpson and Bill Haas among the players who were given kick-starts to the pro careers via JDC sponsor exemptions.
This year’s commitment list includes five players (in addition to Johnson) who have won major titles: Argentina’s Angel Cabrera (2007 U.S. Open and 2009 Masters), South African Trevor Immelman (2008 Masters), Lucas Glover (2009 U.S. Open), Stewart Cink (2009 British Open) and David Toms (2001 PGA).
The JDC – now in its 46th year and the only PGA Tour event played annually in Illinois – offers $4.8 million in prize money with the champion getting $864,000. There’ll be free admission to the Monday and Tuesday practice rounds. A pro-am on Wednesday, Aug. 10, will precede the four days of tournament play.
Here and there
The Western Amateur field will shrink from the 156 starters on Tuesday to the low 44 and ties after Wednesday’s round at Knollwood, in Lake Forest. The 16 qualifiers for the match play portion of the tourney will be decided after Thursday’s 36-hole session and two rounds of matches are on tap for both Friday and Saturday.
David Impastato, owner of Studio 59 Golf Learning Center in Batavia and former director of golf operations at Cog Hill and head professional at St. Charles Country Club, has been named an instructor for Golf Channel Academy.
The 15th Chicago District Senior Amateur begins its three-day run on Monday at Wynstone, in North Barrington, and the Illinois PGA Senior Championship will be conducted Monday and Tuesday at Whisper Creek, in Huntley.
The SpeedGolf World Championship will return to The Glen Club in Glenview on Oct. 17-18.