By Craig DeVrieze Special to PGATOUR.COM
SILVIS, Ill. – Daniel Summerhays will try a different approach than most in pursuit of his first PGA TOUR victory. He'll be focusing on the John Deere Classic atmosphere just as much as the task at hand.
The 29-year-old third-year pro from Utah buried 149 feet worth of birdie putts en route to a boisterous, fan-friendly round of 9-under 62 on Saturday, good enough to build a two-shot lead over veteran David Hearn going into the final round of the John Deere Classic.
Hearn also will be searching for his first career win on TOUR.
Summerhays’ 19-under score also gave him a three-shot cushion over defending champion Zach Johnson.
“I hope they are intimidated, but I doubt that’s going to be the case – I’m not a very intimidating figure,” said Johnson, who will have the advantage of having won nine times on the PGA TOUR, as well as his status as the hometown fan favorite.
Summerhays, who is coming off a T9 at The Greenbrier Classic last week, may mitigate Johnson’s hometown popularity with an outside-himself approach to playing inside the ropes.
“I putted well, drove the ball well and had a lot of fun interacting with the crowd,” he said. “I try to do that a lot with the kids, the fans, everything. That’s kind of my mantra. It’s not about me. It’s about everybody else. It’s about them having a good time.”
In that, he conceded, is an element of reverse psychology that helps him deal with inevitable ebb and flow of golf career and a golf round.
“It actually relaxes me,” he said. “Everybody says, ‘Stay focused.’ Well, that actually makes me more nervous. It actually calms me down when I can look people in the eyes out in the crowd, give people the thumbs up, give a kid a high-five.
“That calms me down, and I think there’s something to that in life, I really do. Get outside yourself and you’ll find more confidence, more peace, more tranquility.”
The lead twosome will benefit from a comfortable pairing. Hearn is a Summerhays fan and vice-versa.
“We'll have a fun time out there tomorrow and keep making birdies and see what happens,” Hearn said.
Veterans J.J. Henry and Jerry Kelly will start the final round four shots out of the lead and the trio of Nicholas Thompson, Chris Kirk and Matt Jones trail by five.
With low numbers being the norm at TPC Deere Run – Saturday’s scoring average was 68.236 – Johnson said the only safe approach is to not play safe.
“My guess is they are going to come out firing, and I don’t know why they wouldn’t,” he said of the final twosome. “I mean, every year at John Deere it takes a lot of birdies to win.”