Patrick Rodgers, a junior at Stanford, briefly held the lead in the third round of the John Deere Classic.
By Craig DeVrieze, Special to PGATOUR.COM
SILVIS, Ill. – Stanford junior Patrick Rodgers took care of one first on Friday. The amateur from Avon, Ind., played his way into the John Deere Classic weekend after missing cuts at the 2012 Travelers Championship and John Deere.
Saturday, Rodgers crossed off another first. After burying a 57-foot bomb for birdie at the 13th hole at TPC Deere Run, the fresh-faced youngster looked up at a professional leaderboard to see his name listed first.
“Yeah, I saw that but I knew the leaders were a couple of holes behind me,” he said, showing a veteran’s perspective . “The course is there for the taking so they are going to make some birdies.”
Still, only years removed from stomping around TPC Deere Run as an awestruck teen just done cutting his teeth at a nearby American Junior Golf Association event, Rodgers led a PGA TOUR event for a full 15 minutes.
That had to be a rush, right?
“It’s cool to be on top of the board, but I’d rather be on top of the board at the end of the week,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers kept his head in the game beyond the 13th on Saturday, but couldn’t add another birdie. He finished at 12 under for the tournament after a bogey at the finishing hole, posting a 6-under 65, his low round in a TOUR event. He is in position to better the best JDC finish by an amateur on Sunday. Phillip Francis tied for 34th in 2008.
“I just tried to keep pushing as best I could,” he said. “Little disappointed with the finish but it’s a new experience I’ll learn from, and I’ll be better for it tomorrow.”
Rodgers will start the final round a shot behind 19-year-old rookie professional Jordan Spieth, who turned pro over the winter.
Good plan, too. The young Texan’s 2014 PGA TOUR card is assured thanks to a year that includes five top-10 finishes and more than $1.2 million earned.
Rodgers wouldn’t bite when asked if Spieth’s success might convince him to turn pro early come fall. His sights are set on earning a berth on the U.S. Walker Cup squad in September.
Should he opt to pursue a professional golf career beyond those matches, however, Rodgers will have this weekend to build upon.
“There’s a lot of guys who have come out here and had success. It gives me confidence to come out here and play well,” he said. “I’m my own person and I make my own decisions. But it’s definitely nice to come out here and gain some experience and see other guys who have played well as well.”
Morgan Hoffmann has three top-10s since mid-May on TOUR. (Guime/Getty Images)
By Craig DeVrieze, Special to PGATOUR.COM
SILVIS, Ill. – Morgan Hoffmann came to the John Deere Classic looking forward to a break next week after teeing it up for a seventh straight week.
After three Friday whacks into the hazard at TPC Deere Run’s 11th hole, his second of the day, produced a quadruple bogey 8, Hoffmann could have been forgiven for thinking about getting a two-day head start on his week away. He stood 3 over for the tournament.
Instead, the PGA TOUR rookie has gone 18 under on his ensuing 33 holes and, perhaps, has put himself in position to the brakes on that break.
“Definitely not taking it off then,” Hoffmann said of the British Open exemption that would come with a John Deere victory. “I will be on that flight.”
His seat on the John Deere-supplied charter to Scotland is far from booked. Hoffmann’s 8-under 63 on Saturday put him on the front page of the leaderboard early, but at 12 under for the tourney, he may need to go even lower to overcome a pack of players likely to end the third round ahead of him.
Low like 59? Well, it has been done at TPC Deere Run, of course. Hoffmann remembered watching Paul Goydos post that magic number in the 2010 opening round. And Hoffmann himself actually has matched that -- in a fashion this week. Pair the 29 Hoffman shot on the Deere Run frontside Friday with the 30 he turned with on Saturday, and 59 it is.
“I wish the front nine was the whole course, I guess,” the soft-spoken New Jersey native said.
He did approach No. 11 with some trepidation on Saturday. “Yeah,” he said. “On No. 10, I was thinking about 11.”
To Hoffmann’s credit, he didn’t give it much thought past the par-3 12th on Friday. “I let it get into my head a little bit on the next shot, too – I kind of whiffed a 5-iron,” Hoffmann said. “But I got up and down, made a good putt and after that, it kind of sparked a ‘Let’s go, there’s still a lot of golf left.’”
And maybe more next week. If Hoffmann should find his way onto the John Deere charter jet Sunday night, he will have enhanced his chances for PGA TOUR rookie of the year.
He also will have become the fourth player to win on TOUR with a quadruple bogey on his card, joining Phil Mickelson (2009 TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola), David Toms (2003 Wells Fargo Championship) and David Graham (1983 Shell Houston Open.)
Zach Johnson shares the lead at the John Deere Classic, with Steve Stricker not far behind. (Cohen/Getty Images)
By Craig DeVrieze, Special to PGATOUR.COM
SILVIS, Ill. – Hawkeyes communing with Fighting Illini is akin to dogs sleeping with cats in this Mississippi River border burgh. But Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker just don’t seem to know how not to get along.
At the John Deere Classic, ardent Iowa fan Johnson and Fighting Illini grad Stricker are favorite sons. Stricker – who also mixes Wisconsin roots into this muddled Big Ten picture – owned a piece of the TPC Deere Run leaderboard for the better part of four years before a balky driver and a charging Johnson stalled his bid for a JDC four-peat down the Sunday stretch last year.
Johnson, the defending champion who grew up from 90 minutes west of the Quad Cities, hasn’t let loose of the tournament lead since then.
Grouped with their 2012 Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III, Johnson and Stricker played side-by-side in the first two rounds of this year’s Deere affair. That could have been a combustible mix – if either of the favored JDC siblings contained an ounce of combustibility in their Big Ten DNA.
Thursday was Iowa Hawkeyes Day at TPC Deere Run.
Friday was Fighting Illini Day.
“Yeah, I got a lot of I-L-L chants and a big cheer when I birdied 17,” said Stricker, who donned his brightest orange shirt to note the occasion.
So did that stick in the craw of the Hawkeye guy?
“He was all right,” Stricker said. “He got a lot of Hawkeye love yesterday.”
Johnson at least tried to take the trash-talking bait when asked how those I-L-L chants struck him Friday: “I could fill in the blank with ‘a-n-n-o-y,’ but we won’t go there, will we?”
Well, technically, we just did. But nonetheless …
One thing that couldn’t be clearer is the level of admiration that Johnson, the 37-year-old whose nine career wins include the 2007 Masters, has for Stricker, who is nine years the Iowan’s senior and has three more wins on his resume.
“He is just a model of consistency,” Johnson said. “That’s the kind of guy you try to model your game after.”
Johnson especially wouldn’t mind being stricken with a case of Stricker’s famously effective putting stroke. And maybe he has been. In the midst of a subpar year, he came to TPC Deere Run ranked 101st in strokes-gained-putting. He is fifth this week.
“Ooh, that’s a good question,” Johnson said when asked if he putts better when he plays with a player who putts like Stricker. “Maybe. He just sets into it and it doesn’t look like he is going to miss. It’s fun to watch. Kind of gets you into that mode of trying to make putts yourself.”
Stricker, meanwhile, said it’s easy to feed off Johnson when he is playing well.
And especially here.
“Yeah, it’s fun,” he said. “He’s playing great. He obviously has a great feeling for this course, much like I do. It’s fun to play with him and it’s fun to feed off his energy and his crowd.”
The Hawkeye fan and the Fighting Illini will be separated in Saturday’s third round. Johnson, a co-leader at 12-under 130, will tee off an hour behind Stricker, who is three shots behind.
But given Stricker’s penchant for going low here – he had rounds of 63, 62, 61 and 60 while racking up his three straight wins – a final round reunion of these favorite John Deere Classic sons can’t be ruled out.
Maybe Sunday heat can bring this favored sibling rivalry to a boil.
Kevin Streelman's new putter is paying off at the John Deere Classic. (Cohen/Getty Images)
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
SILVIS, Ill. -- It is such a fine line. Players want to get better but don’t want to lose what they have working. Patrick Reed walked that line this week. He’s been playing well but wanted a little more distance from his driver and a little more performance out of his wedges. So Reed made some changes this week. He put in a Callaway Optiforce driver and switched to some chrome-finished wedges. The result? Reed averaged 322.4 yards per drive on Friday and holed out from 37 yards on the 17th hole with his new 61-degree wedge.
One thing that did not need changing was Reed’s putter. He made 110 feet of putts in the second round after making 122 feet on Thursday. That’s a remarkable 232 combined feet for 36 holes. No wonder he shares the lead at 12 under.
Streak: Zach Johnson has some wonderful numbers working this week. He has yet to make a bogey in the tournament and he has two rounds in the 60s. In fact, Johnson has recorded 18 straight rounds in which he has broken 70 at the John Deere Classic. Johnson shot 71 in the final round of the 2008 tournament and has broken 70 in 18 straight rounds since then.
Johnson’s short game is very sharp this week. He is 4-for-4 in bunker saves and his chipping has been crisp. It’s those one-putt pars that have enabled Johnson to cobble together rounds of 64-66.
Spike mark: Steve Stricker was thinking birdie on the 18th hole to get within one of the lead. Instead he made bogey, missing a putt from inside of three feet. Stricker was visibly upset with the miss but did still conducted post-round interviews. It appeared Stricker’s putt hit a pitch or spike mark that caused it to veer off line. Stricker still has 36 holes to make up for the miss.
Practice: Kevin Streelman is having the best season of his PGA TOUR career and yet he missed four straight cuts. So he took some time off to work on his game, then stopped in Chicago to work on his putting with Kevin Weeks. He felt good about his game as he left Weeks’ studio but wanted a different putter. So, Streelman plucked a Scotty Cameron Newport II off the wall as he left. Maybe he should consider paying for the putter. Streelman is T17 in total putting this week. He has hit 25 of 28 fairways and 31 of 36 greens. Ballstriking and putting has Streelman 10 under.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.