SILVIS, IL. – This has been one weird John Deere Classic.
Illinois’ only annual PGA Tour stop usually has a few big names. This one had such mainstays on the circuit as Bubba Watson, Daniel Berger, Steve Stricker and Jason Day among its entrants, but none made it to the starting line.
The local players haven’t stepped forward, either. Highwood’s Patrick Flavin continued to be the best of that bunch, but he’s down in 30th place entering Sunday’s final round. Flavin, at least, got to see Saturday’s round of the day up close and personal. His playing partner, Ohio State alum Bo Hoag, shot a 63, but he’s still back in a tie for sixth after 54 holes.
What this 51st playing of the tournament might produce on Sunday is a wire-to-wire champion – the first since Michael Kim set the tournament scoring record of 27-under-par 257 in an eight-shot victory in 2018.
J.D. Poston has dominated this year so far, and he takes a three-shot lead into the final round. Poston, after rounds of 62, 65 and 67, is three ahead of Scott Stallings, Emiliano Grillo and Denny McCarthy and is at 19-under-par 194 through three rounds.
Poston has had a strange season, though. He missed the cut in his first six tournaments and 10 of his first 14. Last week, however, he tied for second in The Travelers Championship in Hartford, Ct. Xander Schauffele beat him by two shots last Sunday, but Poston didn’t let that get him down.
“I feel great,’’ he said in the midst of his three-day hot streak at TPC Deere Run. “My last few rounds have been great going back into last week, so I’m just trying to keep riding that momentum and not change anything.’’
Poston has but one win in six seasons on the PGA Tour, at the Wyndham Championship in his home state of North Carolina in 2019.
McCarthy was more than just his third-round playing partner this week. They comprised two of the six players sharing a house during the JDC.
“It’s been a fun week,’’ said McCarthy. “We’ve been playing cards and go to dinner together. There’s been no alcohol and we haven’t been throwing any parties, that’s for sure.’’
McCarthy could wind up as Poston’s top challenger on Sunday. He hit all 18 greens in regulation on Saturday and finished birdie-birdie to cut into McCarthy’s lead that was five shots at one point.
While Poston’s game has been sharp for two weeks, McCarthy’s has been encouraging, too. Though McCarthy is winless on the PGA Tour he did contend in two of his last three tournaments, tying for fifth in the Memorial and tying for seventh in the U.S. Open.
In Saturday’s round Stallings shot 64, Grillo 65, McCarthy 66 and Poston 67. Poston’s lead was slipping away until he made eagle at the par-5 seventeenth.
Zach Johnson, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, is gearing up for the British Open in two weeks at St. Andrews – where he won in 2015. He’s also on the JDC Board of Directors and the tourney’s champion in 2012. Johnson goes into Sunday’s final round in a tie for 36th.
“That’s where my mind is right now. I’ve got 11-12 days before St. Andrews so I’ll get focused on that next week,’’ said Johnson. “I’m not there yet. That’s obviously a totally different animal, so my mind is still on tomorrow here.’’
While not ruling himself out, Johnson is interested in Sunday’s battle with three British Open spots on the line for other players.
“There are some guys who may not be household names on this board right now, but they will be,’’ said Johnson. “The quality of golf is going to be spectacular.’’