The often-overlooked John Deere Classic elevated its profile by helping Jordan Spieth become a star.
Spieth won’t be back in Silvis, Illinois, this week, though, and neither will most of golf’s top players.
Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar are among Americans who chose to play the Scottish Open to get a feel for a links-styled course ahead of next week’s British Open at Royal Birkdale.
Daniel Berger is the only player from the top 20 in the world — he’s No. 20 — at the TPC Deere Run, where Spieth made history in 2013 as the first teenager to win on the PGA Tour in 82 years.
The field features eight of the top 30 in the FedEx Cup. It gets its star power from a pair of locals — Zach Johnson, who grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Steve Stricker, a three-time winner who played college golf at Illinois.
Here are some of the key story lines to follow as the tour makes its annual stop to the Quad Cities.
BACK FOR MOORE: Ryan Moore, the defending champion at TPC Deere Run, will return after being sidelined for five weeks with a strained tendon in his left shoulder. Moore has averaged a 67.2 in his last 20 rounds at the par-71 TPC Deere Run and is 61st in the FedEx standings. “Honestly, it’s feeling better than before I hurt it. So I probably could have come back couple weeks ago if I really need to do, but I thought this was the right time with the end of the season being a pretty big push here,” Moore said. “I was in a position where I was in a decent spot in the FedEx Cup so I could take a few more weeks and just get the right amount of rest and rehab in.”
ZACH’S TOURNEY: Johnson has long been the ambassador of this tournament, where he sits on the board of directors. But Johnson, who won the John Deere Classic in 2012, has struggled mightily in 2017 — sitting in 103rd place. Perhaps a return trip to home will help Johnson turn his season around.
“Is my back against the wall? I don’t know. I don’t think I’m quite to that point yet. I think there are still many opportunities out there to have a great year. I could still have one of the best years of my career the way I see it. There is a lot of opportunity out there,” Johnson said.
BUBBA’S BACK: Two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson will return to the Quad Cities for the first time in seven years looking to solidify his playoff chances. Watson enters the weekend in 118th place — just above the cutoff of 125. “I’m looking at the numbers now and looking at what I need to do,” said Watson, whose best finish at Deere Run came when he finished 17th in 2006.
GEOGRAPHY LESSON: Berger is playing the John Deere Classic for the first time, a decision he made based on his own experiences.
He earned a spot in the British Open as a rookie in 2015 when it was held at St. Andrews, and like other players, chose to play the Scottish Open the week before to get acclimated to the time change and to links golf. It just wasn’t for him.
“I’m not a guy that likes to do two weeks in England,” Berger said, overlooking that he spent both weeks in Scotland. “Like when I came out my rookie year I got into the British Open and I went to Scotland and played the Scottish Open, and that was just too much time in England.”
DIVOTS: Past winners in the field include Steve Stricker (2009-11) and U.S. Open runner-up Brian Harman (2014). ... Spieth also won here in 2015. ... Kyle Stanley, ranked 14th, is coming off a win at the Quicken Loans National on July 2. Stanley also was fourth at The Players Championship and sixth at the Memorial Tournament in early June.