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  • McGirt not headlining, but co-leading at John Deere

  • William McGirt is right where he wants to be at TPC Deere Run -- under the radar. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) William McGirt is right where he wants to be at TPC Deere Run -- under the radar. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

SILVIS, Ill. – William McGirt is more than fine with never hearing that ubiquitous “You da man!” chant from outside the PGA TOUR ropes.

In fact, “Who’s that man?” works just fine for the 5-foot-8 native of Lumberton, North Carolina.

“I love being in this position because you can go about your business and nobody really knows who you are,” he said after moving to the top of the John Deere Classic leaderboard Friday morning by backing a 7-under 64 with a round of 66. “You can go to dinner, and people ask 'Are you a golfer? What’s your name?'”

"William," he will tell them. “You just leave it at that and they walk away and go, ‘Who was that guy?’”

Who is McGirt? A self-described “regular guy” from a blue-collar background, he said.

 “I like to go out, play golf, have a few beers and watch a football game,” he said. “Nothing flashy about me. Nothing that stands out. I’m just like everybody in this room, like everybody out at this tournament. I didn’t grow up very well off. I’ve never been the most talented guy out here. I’ve had to work for everything I have gotten. Everything I have gotten out of the game, I have pretty much earned through hard work. That’s just me in a nutshell.”

That would make him a fair match for the John Deere Classic, a tournament that has crowned 19 first-time winners, a smalltown event contested in a community built on the back of farm implement manufacturers like John Deere. To become the 20th first-time winner, however, McGirt will have to out-duel co-leader Zach Johnson and a crowded leaderboard over the next 36 holes at TPC Deere Run.

It is an event that very much suits McGirt, who really digs the pre-tourney “Big Dig.” That’s a Tuesday night affair where JDC contestants and their families gather away from the glare of cameras and media attention to throw a fishing line in a stream and get behind the wheel of a John Deere tractor or piece of construction equipment.

“Tuesday night was probably one of the funnest nights I have ever had,” he said. “I have an 18-month-old son and he had a blast, me pushing him around in a little tractor and him trying to drive the little toy gators.”

In his fourth year on TOUR, McGirt might be better known in Canada, where he has finished as runner-up in back-to-back RBC Canadian Opens.

Despite his comfort level flying under the radar, he’s eager to win a higher profile this weekend.

“You play well, people are going to follow you,” he said. “It’s something you kind of have to thrive on. I mean, if you can’t deal with it, you’re in the wrong profession.”

William McGirt interview after Round 2 of John Deere
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    William McGirt interview after Round 2 of John Deere