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John Deere Classic

Tournament Preview

Zach Johnson is the defending champion, but Steve Stricker is the name on everyone's mind heading into the 2013 John Deere Classic, which kicks off Thursday at the TPC Club Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois.

Stricker, who lives about three hours away and attended the University of Illinois, has won three of the last four titles at the Classic, including his 26-under 258 in 2010, the course record.

The 46-year-old Stricker is 13th on the PGA money list in 2013 and is playing for the first time since finishing eighth at the US Open in mid-June.

He and Johnson are both scheduled to tee off at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time in Thursday's first round in the last big tournament before the British Open next week.

A purse of $4.6 million has 40 of the US Open's competitors on hand. Missing from the fray will be American John Daly, who announced on Wednesday he also will miss the British Open with an elbow injury.

Set along the Rock River, the TPC Club Deere Run course measures 7,080 yards. The course's "signature" hole is No. 16, a 158-yard No. 3 that featured an elevated green flanked by two enormous bunkers. And past that is a 569-yard, par-5 No. 17.

07/11/13, Thursday

Three hundred and sixty-five days might have passed since the last time Zach Johnson took the field at the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Illinois, but the tournament's defending champion picked up right where he left off in Thursday's first round.

Johnson fired a7-under 64 to tie Colombia's Camilo Villegas for first place at the tournament which carries a $4.6 million purse and serves as a final warm-up for several of the game's top players before next week's British Open.

Johnson, who grew up in Iowa about 100 miles from the course, looked right at home from the get-go, starting the day with back-to-back birdies and hitting the turn at 4-under. He never made a bogey on the day, his 17th straight round at this tournament to shoot in the 60s.

Villegas would have had the lead all to himself save for a bogey on No. 9 that had him 2-under on the front half. He quickly rectified the foul up by starting the back nine with three straight birdies, and hit five overall down the stretch.

Villegas and Johnson lead the field by one stroke over the trio of Daniel Summerhays, Matt Bettencourt and Brendon de Jonge.

De Jonge, a native of Zimbabwe, drew plenty of attention with his long drives and less than traditional form. The 32-year-old stands 6 feet tall and weighs in at 230 pounds.

After shooting just 1-under on the front nine, he eagled No. 10 to get back into the mix.

Bettencourt was a late addition to the field after John Daly announced his elbow problems. The 38-year-old Bettencourt sizzled early, with four birdies in his first six holes.
A whopping 91 players are at least one shot below par after the first 18 holes, and 23 of those are within three strokes or fewer of the co-leaders.

Seven players are tied for sixth at 5-under, including Book Weekley, while the likes of Davis Love III, K.J. Choi and three-time John Deere Classic winner Steve Stricker are tied for 13th at 4-under.

The 49-year-old Love III was in command of the field through 14 holes at 6-under, but back-to-back bogeys on No. 16 and 17 ended his day on a down note.

Stricker, easily the fan favorite, got off to a rocky start with two birdies and two bogeys in the first seven holes. Like Bettencourt, he came alive with an eagle on No.10 and fired a 4-under on the back nine.
 

 07/14/13, Friday

It's anyone's guess who will win the John Deere Classic this weekend in Silvis, Illinois, especially given 25 players are within five strokes of the lead halfway through the tournament.

What's undisputed at this point is that the course itself is under all-out assault, as every one of those 25 players is at lead 7-under par, led by a trio of leaders at 12-under through two rounds.

Defending champion Zach Johnson is one of those three men tied at 12-under, along with fellow Americans Patrick Reed and Lucas Glover. If the trio can keep up their hot play, any one of them could approach Steve Stricker's 2010 record of 26-under par.

It was Johnson's 18th straight round at Silvis in the 60s, and for a second straight day he played an entire round without a bogey, spacing out two birdies on the front nine and three more on the back nine.

His new co-leaders, Reed and Glover, had two of the best rounds in the field. Reed fired an 8-under 63 by knocking down four birdies in his first six holes and counteracting a bogey on No. 14 with an eagle on 17.

Glover was even better, with a 9-under 62 in which he never went more than three holes in a row without a birdie.
 
Australia's Matt Jones is all alone in fourth with a 6-under 65 to get to 11-under. A logjam of five players sits two strokes back at 10-under, followed five more at 9-under, including three-time champion Steve Stricker and Chez Reavie, who fired a course-best 10-under 61 to move from 108th to tied for 10thReavie fired an eagle on No. 2, then had four birdies in five holes and five more between No. 13 and 18.

07/15/13, Saturday

For a guy who missed the last three cuts of tournaments he played in, Daniel Summerhays sure is looking like a champion these days.

The American fired a 9-under 62 to take a 2-stroke lead into the final day of the John Deer Classic in Silvis, Illinois, on Saturday.

Summerhays fired 10 birdies, including four out of the first five holes and a stretch of three more during his back nine to open up a 2-stroke lead over Canada's David Heard heading into the tournament's final day.

Hearn closed his day with three straight birdies, while defending champion Zach Johnson fell out of a tie for first after two days by shooting "only" 4-under. Johnson looked like he might be pulling away with the lead when he eagled No. 2, but gave the good fortune back with a bogey on No.6 and another on No. 11. He turned things around with three birdies down the stretch and is three strokes back of the lead.

A pair of Americans - J.J. Henry and Jerry Kelly - are tied for fourth at 15-under, followed by two more (Nicholas Thompson and Chris Kirk) and Aussie matt Jones 14 14-under.

Friday's Day Two co-leader Patrick Reed struggled to a 70 and fell nine strokes back of the lead at 13-under, while three-time champion Steve Stricker shot a 69 to drop back to tied for 17th at 11-under.
 

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