John Deere Classic: No Way to Tell Who Will Win

We have 36 holes in the books at the John Deere Classic on the TPC Deere Run in Silvas, Illinois, and there’s no way to tell who’s going to win this thing.

Three guys lead at 12-under par: super Monday qualifier from last year, Patrick Reed; defending champion, Zach Johnson, who shared some terrific mastery ideas in yesterday’s post; and Lucas Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion whose body surfing knee injury all but disappeared him in 2012. Reed shot 8-under on the day, Johnson shot 5-under and Glover, 9-under, a good sign that the worst of the knee injury is behind him.

But as well as these guys played and as low as they’ve gone, they still haven’t separated themselves from the pack. Fully 35 players are within 6 shots, but that seems like the average low round guys are shooting. The best Friday was Chez Reavie at an astonishing — hmm, maybe not so much — 10-under 61. Whew! 

Proving the depth of the Tour, there aren’t a lot of big names near the top:

11-under: Matt Jones

10-under: Troy Matteson, Kevin Streelman, Jerry Kelly, David Hearn and Daniel Summerhays (who played very well last week)

9-under: Chris Kirk, Chez Reavie, Brendon de Jonge, Steve Stricker and J.J. Henry

8-under: Martin Flores, Charles Howell III, Jim Herman and Steve LeBrun

So the problem the leaders have is that they have no idea where their pursuer is going to come from or who it might be. Which is a blessing of sorts since they all say they just want to tend to their own knittin’ because they can’t control what anybody else is doing.

What they should be doing is making as many birdies as they can. But in an oddity — until you think about it — the scoring average for Friday was only 69.203, not even a full 2-under par. But when you do think about it, that included all the guys who missed the cut. If you look at just the guys who made the cut, they averaged 3.597 under par on Friday, mercifully short of the 6-under it feels like.

So on a normal day, 4-under would be a good score. Not here and not Saturday, Moving Day, when everybody is judiciously trying to set themselves up for Sunday. It’s all about getting yourself into position to be in contention on Sunday’s back nine. A lot to think about if you’re not that experienced.

But all of these guys are. Even though they might not be familiar names or have won at this level yet, they’ve won a bunch of times to get there. So they know how. And you just never know when one of them will come rocketing up the board to claim his birthright. You just have to hope your lead is big enough and expanding.

Through 28 stroke-play events this year, the second round leader has held on to win just 7 times. Since the John Deere moved to the TPC Deere Run in 2000, the second round leader has hung on to win just 3 times. So it ain’t easy.

And then there’s this British Open thing. There are 26 players in this week’s field also scheduled to compete in next week’s Open Championship at Muirfield. Two spots into the Open Championship remain for the winners of the John Deere Classic and Scottish Open. If either or both events are won by players already exempt into the Open, the invitation is extended to the first available alternate. Scott Stallings is 1st Alternate and Joost Luiten of the Netherlands is 2nd Alternate.

With all of that going on, it will be interesting to watch Saturday’s stampede to the top…and who falls by the wayside trying. As I said, it ain’t easy.

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