John Deere Classic offers last chance for The Open hopefuls
It's the last-chance saloon for players on the PGA Tour looking to book their ticket to Carnoustie as they head to Illinois for the John Deere Classic this week.
The final place available in The Open Qualifying Series is on offer at TPC Deere Run to the leading player – not otherwise exempt – who finishes in the top five and ties.
Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau took exactly that route to earn his place at The 146th Open at Royal Birkdale last year as he won for the first time on the PGA Tour.
With his place at The 147th Open Championship already secured though, the spotlight is on the rest of the field to see who can join him on the charter flight to Scotland.
Defending champion in form
DeChambeau overcame a four-stroke deficit to beat Patrick Rodgers by one shot and claim his maiden Tour victory in dramatic fashion last year.
The American birdied four of the final six holes as played the back nine in a six-under 30, making a 14-foot putt on the last to finish with back-to-back birdies.
His six-under 65 saw him pull level with compatriot Rodgers, who missed a par putt on the 17th and failed to find a birdie on the 18th as DeChambeau came out on top.
Since then, the former U.S. Amateur champion has gone from strength to strength and returns to TPC Deere Run on the cusp of the top 20 in the world rankings.
This means he is one of 14 players in the field already assured of a place at The 147th Open, with his focus instead on trying to retain the title he won in such style.
And he is coming into the event in excellent form, with five top-five finishes already to his name this season, including his second victory at the Memorial Tournament last month.
Course specialists return
Former Champion Golfer of the Year Zach Johnson, who claimed The 144th Open, is among the headline acts making an appearance at the John Deere Classic.
Johnson has shown himself to be something of a course specialist around TPC Deere Run in the past, with one win, three runners-up finishes and two thirds since 2009.
But the two-time major winner is not alone in having a stellar record at the venue, with Steve Stricker looking to become the first four-time champion in the tournament’s history.
Stricker, who finished fourth at The 145th Open at Royal Troon, owned the course between 2009-11 as he picked up a hat-trick of victories.
Reigning Champion Golfer Jordan Spieth also made his PGA Tour breakthrough by winning the event back in 2013, before adding a second title in 2015, but he has decided to skip it this year to concentrate on defending the Claret Jug.
Other past champions teeing it up in Illinois include Sean O’Hair (2005), John Senden (2006), Jonathan Byrd (2007) and Ryan Moore (2016), with the latter in good form after two top-13 finishes in his last three starts.
Busting out the BIG stick. 💪 pic.twitter.com/3ukFjHSouO— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 10, 2018
International flavour to field
Interestingly, Francesco Molinari has opted to remain Stateside rather than tee it up at Gullane Golf Club for the Scottish Open ahead of The Open.
The Italian is coming off the back of winning his first PGA Tour title at the Quicken Loans National in Maryland, shooting a stunning 62 in the final round to win by eight shots.
Molinari began the final round level with Mexico’s Abraham Ancer on 13-under, but he carded six birdies and an eagle to dominate a field that included three-time Champion Golfer of the Year Tiger Woods.
It was the 35-year-old’s second win in his last four worldwide starts, after lifting the BMW PGA Championship trophy, and he is expected to contest at the top of the leaderboard once again this weekend.
However, Molinari will not be the only player adding to the international flavour of the tournament, with 19-year-old Chilean sensation Joaquin Niemann also in the field.
The former top-ranked amateur earned his full status for next season with his latest top-five finish at Greenbrier and he will have his sights set on another big performance to earn his invitation to the Open Championship.
Daily Tickets and a limited number of Weekly Tickets remain available for The 147th Open at Carnoustie. Purchase now at TheOpen.com/Tickets.