Moore returns to PGA Tour in hopes of defending JDC title

The John Deere Classic, Illinois’ only annual PGA Tour event, tees off for the 47th time on Thursday at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, on the outskirts of the Quad Cities. For defending champion Ryan Moore that means a return to the PGA Tour at the course that took his career to a new level last year.

Moore has been sidelined the last six weeks with a shoulder injury but he’s informed the JDC staff that he’s ready to play again. That means he’ll be in Wednesday’s final pro-am at TPC Deere Run before the 72-hole $5.6 million championship begins its four-day run.

The JDC, named the Tournament of the Year by the PGA Tour for its 2016 staging, has usually been friendly to Moore. He has 23 straight rounds under par and three top-10s in the last five years at TPC Deere Run. Last year, though, was something special for the golfer who had one of the most storied amateur careers before turning pro.

In 2004 Moore won the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Public Links (for the second time), the Western Amateur and the NCAA individual title while wrapping up his collegiate career at Nevada-Las Vegas.

He had a respectable pro career prior to 2016, winning four times, but his victory at TPC Deere Run triggered much bigger things. Moore was the last man selected to the U.S. Ryder Cup team shortly after that, then scored the decisive point in the victory over Europe at Hazeltine, in Minnesota.

“This tournament meant so much to me last year, and it really is the reason I ended up on the Ryder Cup team,’’ said Moore. “To finish my year off the way I did, it was this event that started that. I will be forever thankful. That was one of the greatest experiences of my life.’’

Moore has always played well at the JDC. Since 2012 he was tied eighth, tied 22nd, tied seventh and tied 24th prior to his win last year. This year he also played well in the first of the four major championships, finishing in a tie for ninth at the Masters before the shoulder injury sidelined him.

This year Moore will bring his family – wife Nicole and two sons – to the Quad Cities in hopes of extending his run of success at Deere Run. He shot 22-under last year with rounds of 65, 65, 65 and 67 and was bogey-free on the weekend.

“I want to go back and try to do the same thing this year,’’ he said. “(The tournament staff) has done a phenomenal job of making it a fun week, a family week, and really just a great event.’’

Since the JDC moved to TPC Deere Run in 2000 only one player has defended his title. Steve Stricker did it twice, winning three straight times from 2009 to 2011, and he’ll be in the field again.

The most notable newcomer among the touring pros is Bubba Watson, who hasn’t played in the Quad Cities since his early years as a touring pro. Zach Johnson, the JDC winner in 2012 and a long-time member of the tournament’s board of directors, will also bring along a special guest this year – the Ryder Cup trophy that will be available for photos today through Saturday.

Tournament director Clair Peterson has again been creative with his sponsor exemptions. He invited Dylan Meyer and Nick Hardy, the stars of the University of Illinois team; Stanford’s Maverick McNealy, winner of the 2017 Ben Hogan Award as the best collegiate player; and last year’s U.S. Amateur champion – Australian Curtis Luck.

Romo in Western Amateur

Tony Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback, will compete against the world’s best amateurs when the 115th Western Amateur tees off on July 29 at Skokie Country Club in Glencoe.

The Western Golf Association has announced that all of the world’s top 10 amateurs will compete in the tournament. In addition to Illinois’ Meyer and Hardy the field includes Braden Thornberry, who won the NCAA individual at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove in May; Arlington Heights native Doug Ghim, the Big 12 Player of the Year for Texas; and Ghim’s Longhorns’ teammate Scottie Scheffler, the low amateur at June’s U.S. Open.

Up and coming

Two of the biggest annual state championships will be contested on almost identical dates next week. The Illinois Women’s Open is Monday through Wednesday at Mistwood, in Romeoville, and the Illinois State Amateur is Tuesday through Thursday at Calumet Country Club in Homewood.