The PGA Tour has been on the East Coast enough, so they move to the Illinois/Iowa border to play The John Deere Classic. The course is TPC Deere Run, and is a par 71 at just over 7,200 yards. (Side note: another course where par is less than 72... I think this is the norm for the Tour unless you can stretch out the yardage to 7,500 or larger. A marker of days to come).
The tournament is held in, and benefits, The Quad Cities. What four cities those are, I have no idea. Moline and East Moline, IL is a real thing apparently. And the Mississippi River is just down the road. Moving on, this course begs for birdies. Paul Goydos shot 59 here and lost (the winner shot 60). The winning score is usually around 20 under par for the week, so go low or go home. Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson (local Iowa boy) are crowd favorites and are always in contention. But this has produced some first-time winners including world #2 Jordan Spieth (2013) and our very own Brian Harman (2014). Harman held off a late-charging Zach Johnson to win by 1, even with a safety bogey on the 72nd hole last year.
So as the Red & Black return to the land of Green and Yellow tractors, let's take a look at whom for which we shall root. Below are former Georgia Bulldogs playing in this week's tourney (World Golf Ranking and FedEx Cup ranking in parentheses):
Erik Compton (125,115). He's known more for his heart transplant story than his game right now, but that is deserved. He's in a bit of a freefall, having missed 4 cuts recently. He could use a bounceback week.
Harris English (75,36). Harris has a birthday on the 23rd of this month, and I hope he gets a win in the next two weeks to celebrate. He's as talented as any on tour, and had a decent run before taking the last couple of weeks off.
Brian Harman (72,65). He has moved up 20+ spots in the rankings thanks to a 3rd place finish at the Travelers (behind Bubba). He's the defending champion and has proven that he can make birdies in bunches.
Kevin Kisner (36,11). I'll say it again, this guy was 250+ in the world back in February. He missed 4 cuts to start 2015. But since then has 8 top 25s, 6 top 10s, and no worse than 12th his last four tourneys. That equates to over $3M in earnings this season. A win would truly vault him into best golfer on the planet right now conversation with the likes of Bubba, Rory, and Jordan.
Lee McCoy (amateur). The rising senior will be using his 2nd sponsors exemption in this week's tourney. He missed the cut at the US Open and again at the Travelers a couple of weeks ago. But he was key to UGA's run to the national semifinals this spring, and was on the winning US Palmer Cup team a few weeks ago (a Ryder Cup like event for collegiate golfers against Europe).
Hudson Swafford (267,95) Getting some love from the PGA Tour. But he's been in limbo for several weeks, missing cuts or finishing fairly low. He's inside the top 100 in FedEx points, but will make a quick exit from the playoffs if he doesn't get some high finishes late this summer.
As stated previously, Chris Kirk, Bubba Watson, Brendon Todd and Russell Henley are already qualified for next week's British Open, so they're likely settling in across the pond so as to get a jump on the jet lag and a few practice rounds on The Old Course. Kisner, Harman and English are qualified too and the John Deere tournament charters a plane to take weekend players directly from a local airport to Scotland. A nice touch, and helps bring top notch players to aforementioned Quad Cities.
Television times are pretty standard fare: Thurs/Friday 4:00-7:00 pm ET on Golf Channel, Sat/Sun 1:00-2:30 pm ET on Golf Channel, and 3:00-6:00 pm ET on CBS.
Women's World Cup is over (USA, USA, USA), and we're about to hit the summer doldrums also known as ESPN alternative programming. So swing over to watch the 6 Bulldogs make hay while the sun shines.