SILVIS, IL. – Could Sunday bring a changing of the guard at the John Deere Classic? Saturday’s developments at TPC Deere Run certainly suggested that’s a strong possibility.
Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker, the poster boys for the PGA Tour stop over the last four years, fell off the pace in the third round as up-and-comers Daniel Summerhays and David Hearn moved to the top of the leaderboard.
Summerhays posted the day’s best score, a 9-under-par 62, and hit the 54-hole stop at 19-under 194. Hearn, like Summerhays a non-winner on the PGA circuit, carded a 64 and is two strokes back.
Defending champion Johnson is hardly out of it after posting a 67, but he’s three behind Summerhays and won’t be in the final twosome the last round.
“I’ve got the advantage on them from the experience standpoint, but not the scoring standpoint,’’ said Johnson, an Iowa native who has long been on the tournament’s board of directors. “Both are great players. I hope they’re intimidated by me, but I doubt it. I’m not a very intimidating figure. My guess is they’ll come out firing. I can’t image they wouldn’t.’’
As for three-time winner Stricker, he couldn’t make a birdie in the first nine Saturday – a rarity on a course that yields plenty of them – and is nine shots back after carding a 69
“Playing the front nine and watching everybody just lap me, that was tough to see,’’ said Stricker, who went 11 holes without a bird but still holds out hope for Sunday. “I’ll just have to put up a low number, and they’re out there.’’
Summerhays and Hearn both started birdie-birdie on Saturday and kept up the hot pace. Summerhays made nine birdies. He isn’t qualified for next week’s British Open, but he’ll be on Sunday night’s jet to Scotland if he wins the tournament.
That’d mean a radical change in travel for the Brigham Young University graduate who delayed his golf career to serve a two-year Mormon Mission in Chile in 2003-05. He’s been traveling to tournaments in a motor home the past four years with his wife and three young sons, the oldest of whom is 5.
Summerhays comes from a golfing family. He’s the nephew of Bruce Summerhays, a Champions Tour player, and his brother Boyd plays on the Canadian PGA Tour. Summerhays is also the cousin of former LPGA player Carrie Roberts, who is now the women’s golf coach at BYU.
Prior to turning pro Summerhays became the first amateur to win a tournament on the Nationwide (now Buy.com) Tour. He hopes the JDC will be his first on the PGA circuit, and pictures of past champions on the clubhouse wall are serving as inspiration.
“This tournament has been a good launching pad for a lot of players,’’ said Summerhays, who enjoys interacting with the galleries and did plenty of it during his hot round on Saturday.
“When I’m playing well my mentality is to make as many birdies as you can,’’ he said. That mindset is a necessity at one of the PGA Tour’s lowest-scoring tournaments. Eight of the players in the top 10 shot 66 or better in the third round.
Winfield’s Kevin Streelman and Crystal Lake’s Joe Affrunti, the Chicago players who made the cut, couldn’t do it and dropped down the standings. Affrunti nearly holed out at the par-3 17th, putting his tee shot one foot from the cup, but he posted a 69 and dropped 12 places into a tie for 38th place.
Streelman struggled home with a 71 and dropped 19 spots, to a tie for 24th.