Eventually the John Deere Classic (if he wins his 4th consecutive John Deere or not) will be renamed the Steve Stricker show. Stevie is a cheese head by birth, but his collegiate career was in Illinois, so this tournament is close to his heart no doubt. Mr. Stricker, for the last 12 rounds at the TPC Deere Run, is -68 under par. That is a stroke average of 65.33 per round, which is 4.3 shots better than anyone else. I think what we need to take from these stats is that TPC Deere Run sets up for Mr. Stricker, and he has a great chance of taking down this tournament for a fourth time in a row.
If Steve Stricker can manage the unbelievable, he would be the fifth player in history to win the same tournament four times in a row. Tom Morris Jr, Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and Tiger Woods (twice). That is a piece of history that we may not see challenged again in a our lifetime.
So how did the first day go… Steve finds himself four shots off the lead at -6 under par. Strickers opening round of 65 is a solid start to a great tournament. Who was low man for day one? Troy Matteson with a red hot first round of -10 under par 61. No bogeys, 10 birdies and lots of putts made. Ricky Barnes is the only other man to go lower than Stricker at 64 for -7 under par. Ricky is a long hitter, but likes to hit fairway woods and hybrids/irons to get the ball in play. His game suits TPC Deere Run, and he is hungry for a winner. Ricky is definetly a player to watch this week to challenge Stricker.
There are a lot of PGA Tour players that play the TPC specifically because the field is weaker. I hate using that word but it describes it the best. The field is weaker with most of the top players heading overseas to play in the British Open (I will always call it that and not just the Open). Add the timing of the tournament, as well as the location of the venue (it is in the middle of America, which is not over populated to say the least). The John Deere is the biggest little tournament on the PGA Tour. Of all the smaller field tournaments, this one has the most draw, and I am glad that we get to see some of the fresh faces of the PGA Tour, and some of the crusty verterans, play well and compete for their first victory, maybe their last chance at victory, or if you are Steve Stricker your big chance at golf immortality.