With The Open Championship just a week away, many players on the PGA Tour are preparing by playing at the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Illinois.
With several big names in action, and the TPC Deere Run course looking favorable for big scores, we could have quite the exciting tournament on our hands. Below, we'll provide an updated look at the scoreboard over the weekend of play, while recapping each day's action and providing a few highlights along the way.
It was a tight race to the finish in the John Deere Classic, but one that saw Brian Harman capturing his first PGA Tour win.
Following the win, the PGA Tour's account congratulated Harman and give a look at his ranking:
The 27-year-old came into the day at the top of the leaderboard and optimism about his game on Sunday. Harman spoke about his expectations heading into the final day of the weekend, per the John Deere Classic's official account:
"I'm going to go out & shoot the lowest score I can tomorrow. I'm going to give it my best & see if it's good enough." Brian Harman #JDC14— John Deere Classic (@JDCLASSIC) July 12, 2014
Following three masterful performances highlighted by an opening round 63, Harman yet again made some huge shots to hold off Zach Johnson on Sunday.
One of the biggest shots on the day came early on during the second hole of the round. The Classic account breaks down the shot for Harman:
Brian Harman extends his lead by 3 strokes after posting an eagle on the par-5 second. #JDC14— John Deere Classic (@JDCLASSIC) July 13, 2014
Here's a look at the outstanding eagle, per the PGA Tour.
While Harman was able to walk down the final fairway to cheers and seeing his fiancee, Kelly Van Slyke tearing up, all Johnson could do was watch. His phenomenal round fell just short, but he still notched a seven-under 64 on the day.
Justin Ray of the Golf Channel provides a look at Johnson's history in the tournament:
Zach Johnson cards 64, his 24th straight round under par @JDCLASSIC - he's combined -105 in span. Sits 2 back of Harman.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 13, 2014
As for another player who emerged from the field as a contender, Jordan Spieth put together a strong round with a five-under 66 and will hope to compete for a title in a major tournament. But the moment, for the day, belonged to Harman, as Ray notes:
With another great tournament in the Classic, Johnson comes into the British Open with plenty of confidence at the major tournament. As for Harman, the first-time winner now has a memorable moment and chance to compete at Royal Liverpool.
We saw some very low numbers on Saturday at TPC Deere Run.
Brian Harman took full advantage of some favorable scoring conditions, firing a six-under 65 on the day—a round in which he shot a total of five under on the course's three par fives.
Harman kicked things off in style, draining this 29-foot putt on the par-five second for eagle:
Although, if you can believe it, that was in now way his best putt on the day.
Harman bested himself on the par-five 17th, this time rolling in an incredible 46-foot putt for his second eagle on the day:
Those two eagles helped Harman to his 54-hole tournament lead at 17-under par. ESPN.com's Farrell Evans noted exactly why Harman is capable of churning out eagles:
Brian Harman, who has the lead at the John Deere Classic, is pound for pound the longest player on tour.— Farrell Evans (@EvansESPN) July 12, 2014
Nipping at Harman's heels is Steve Stricker, who is sitting pretty in solo-second place at 16 under.
Stricker was a birdie machine on Saturday, accumulating eight during his impressive round of 64.
As we know, with a great short game comes low scores, and Stricker was on point during the weekend's first round. Here's a look at a great 79-foot chip, as he uses the slope of the green to his advantage:
Although, Harman and Stricker are far from alone atop the leaderboard, as 11 other players are within five strokes of the lead.
One such player is Scott Brown.
Brown fired the low round of the day on Saturday, finishing with an impressive 10-under 61 due to his blemish-free scorecard.
PGA Tour tweeted the implications a win would have for Brown this week:
Clubhouse leader Scott Brown (-15) has one TOUR win (2013 Puerto Rico Open) and would move into the #FedExCup top 30 with another this week.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 12, 2014
With so many golfers within striking distance heading into the tournament's final round, and continued impeccable scoring conditions in Illinois, we should be in for one dramatic finale on Sunday.
It's impossible to pick a headline story after Friday's highly entertaining round in Silvis, Illinois.
There was Jordan Spieth, who after a collapse on Day 1 bounced back in a major way with a 64, moving him up 65 spots on the leaderboard. As a result, the defending champion put himself on quite an interesting path, as PGA TOUR Media explains:
A great comeback story, yes, but to pull it off Spieth will have to surpass a legend of the course, Steve Stricker.
While he's skipping the British Open, Stricker has his eyes set on the crown this weekend—he resides just three strokes off the lead. His 65 was his 21st consecutive round under par at the tournament, making him 109-under par overall in that span.
"I think it feels like home," Stricker said, via Gary D’Amato of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "I think that's the bottom line. It's the same grass. It's the same trees. It looks like we could be playing this up in Madison somewhere or Edgerton or anywhere up north. It's just a comfortable feel.
To remain in contention, though, Stricker will have to keep his form and catch up to overall leaders William McGirt and Zach Johnson. The former has missed more cuts than he has made over the course of the past four months and change, but his form is obviously on the mend when combined with the friendly course.
For Johnson, also at 12-under par overall, Friday was business as usual. Like Stricker, his success is yet another round in a long line of excellent showings, as Golf Channel's Justin Ray illustrates:
Zach Johnson since 2009 @JDCLASSIC - 22 rounds played, all under par, combined 96-under. Shot 67 today.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 11, 2014
Behind the co-leaders are three names tied at one stroke back (Steven Bowditch, Johnson Wagner and Brian Harman), as well as four names tied at three strokes off the lead. Six more are tied four off the top mark.
In other words, despite the interesting storylines and current form heading into the weekend, the tournament is very much anybody's to win at this point. Round 3 on Saturday is very much the turning point with another cut on approach.
Zach Johnson had a heck of an opening round at the John Deere Classic on Thursday. Unfortunately for him, he wasn't the only one owning the course.
After finishing with an eight-under 63, Johnson found himself tied with both Rory Sabbatini and Brian Harman atop the leaderboard, while three players were tied in fourth at seven-under and four other players were sitting at six-under.
Suffice to say, the players were quite pleased with how the TPC Deere Run course played on Thursday. Here's a look back at how Johnson fared, via the PGA Tour on Twitter:
After, he talked about his round with reporters, via the tournament's official Twitter account:
Zach Johnson in the interview room after an opening round 63 (-8). ZJ is tied T1...”Today was a great day. I hit my wedges really solid."— John Deere Classic (@JDCLASSIC) July 10, 2014
Sabbatini, meanwhile, was thrilled with the course itself:
RS on the golf course…”There’s a lot of fireworks out there. You know what you need to do. The greens this morning were absolutely perfect."— John Deere Classic (@JDCLASSIC) July 10, 2014
Fireworks, indeed. Check out this splendid birdie from Jerry Kelly for one example of those fireworks:
That's brilliant stuff right there.
While 23 players were within four strokes of the lead, defending champion Jordan Spieth struggled, shooting a disappointing 71 to finish at even par. While that was not the performance he would have wanted to open this tournament, Shane Bacon of Yahoo Sports would like to remind everyone of how this tournament played out a year ago:
Jordan Spieth struggling today is surprising, but he did open with a 70 here a year ago. Then shot three 65s to get in a playoff.— Shane Bacon (@shanebacon) July 10, 2014
Spieth wasn't the only big-name player who found himself looking up at the leaders. Steve Stricker and Kevin Na each finished the round with a solid three-under 68, though still five strokes off the lead, while Kevin Streelman shot a disappointing two-over 73.
With the course playing favorable, and the leaderboard bunched at the top, the tournament should be a dandy as we near the weekend. One would guess Spieth would rebound from his rough start in a big way, while Johnson and company will be looking to hold off a multitude of contenders.
And, with players like Stricker hiding in the bushes, not far from the top scorers, a winner could well emerge from anywhere. As warm-ups for the Open Championship go, the John Deere Classic is shaping up to be truly compelling.