Deere Illini: Make yourself at home
All four former Illini playing in this week’s John Deere Classic have momentum and motivation when they tee off Thursday in the Quad Cities. Staff writer SCOTT RICHEY, with insight from Illini men’s golf coach Mike Small, breaks down just how the fantastic four will fare at TPC Deere Run in Silvis.
Class of 1990
Momentum: It’s been a successful shortened season as Stricker is 8 for 8 on cuts made, including one top-10 finish and four in the top 25. He’s playing some of his best golf of the summer but had a slight drop last weekend at the Greenbrier Classic, finishing tied for 35th after a 4-over-par 74 in the final round.
Motivation: Stricker put together a tremendous run at the Deere Classic, with three consecutive wins from 2009 to 2011. He finished fifth in 2012, and a 16-under- par total was only good enough to finish in a tie for 10th last season as Jordan Spieth finished at 19 under for the win. Either way, he doesn’t have to worry about next week’s British Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Merseyside, England — he withdrew Tuesday.
Deere outlook: There’s few golfers who feel as at home at TPC Deere Run as Stricker. He’s missed the cut twice in 12 events — once in 1993 and again 10 years later — and he had 10 rounds in the 60s (out of 12) when he went on his three-year win spree. He’s been in contention the past two seasons and has to be considered one of the favorites again this year.
Small says: “Stricker is one of the favorites every year they have it. The years he didn’t win it, he’s still played well. I think he’s fresh, and I think he’s in a good place mentally.”
Class of 1999
Momentum: After making the cut in six of his first eight tournaments, the Pekin native has only made four since. That includes last weekend’s Greenbrier Classic. Points was near the top of the leaderboard after firing a first-round 65, but he was 10 strokes worse in the second round and didn’t finish the tournament after another rough round Saturday.
Motivation: Points has plenty. He had one of the best seasons of his PGA career in 2013 ($2,658,887 in winnings). Trying to get back to that level is motivation enough, but Points also is using the Deere Classic as a warmup for the Open Championship — his third time in the major.
Deere outlook: In his eight career appearances, Points has made the cut once — in 2011 when he finished tied for 38th. That’s the only year he’s had two runs in the 60s, a must for the Deere Classic because the winner has been better than 10 under par every year since 1982.
Small says: “D.A. has got the game where he can win any week he tees it up. Even though he hasn’t had the best year, he’s only one good swing or one big momentum builder from having success. D.A. is such a good player that you can’t count him out any week.”
Class of 2011
Momentum: Langley is on the way to a career year, having already racked up more top-25 finishes, more cuts made and more season earnings in three fewer events played. His third- place finish at the Valspar Championship in March stands as his top result this season.
Motivation: Langley’s career year so far has him in a much better position as far as the PGA’s FedEx Cup goes. The four-week, year-end tournament starts with the Top 125 players in the FedEx Cup standings. Last year, Langley was 124th on the list and bowed out after The Barclays. Currently, he’s ranked 72nd.
Deere outlook: Langley’s first try at TPC Deere Run ended after two days in his only PGA event in his first season as a pro. He didn’t play at the Deere Classic in 2012, but he churned out a tie for 33rd last summer, with three rounds in the 60s and an 11-under-par finish. As well as he’s played in spurts this season, the 5-foot-10 lefty could shoot up the leaderboard again.
Small says: “Scott’s got his confidence back. He’s got his mojo back. His game is getting better and better all the time. He’s had good momentum this year, and he believes he can play now.”
Class of 2012
Momentum: Two top-25 showings and a fifth-place finish early in the season seemed to spell a return to form for the Quincy native, but it’s been up and down since. Guthrie was sharp at the Memorial Tournament in June, but he missed the cut in three of his six preceding tournaments and two of three following.
Motivation: Guthrie made a splash in 2012 in his short pro debut, finishing in the top 20 in three of the four tournaments he entered, including a fifth-place finish at the Deere Classic. A strong start to his second pro season — including a third-place finish at The Honda Classic — turned as he missed the cut in eight of his final 13 tournaments last year.
Deere outlook: Guthrie had rounds of 65 and 64 — the first and fourth — in 2012 to finish fifth. He’s also shown TPC Deere Run can tame him after he failed to make the cut last July. It’s tough to tell which Guthrie will show up in Silvis, but contending for the title is certainly not out of the question.
Small says: “It’s golf. You’re not going to play good every time you play. He’s shown he has the ability, and he’s had a solid year for a young player. When Luke putts good and feels good on the green, he’s as good as anybody.”