By Dave Shedloski
Playoffs have decided the outcome of PGA Tour events the last two weeks and three of the last five going back to the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide. The Tour is in Silvis, Illinois this week for the $4.7 million John Deere Classic, which has been decided in a playoff two of the last three years. So signs point to another photo finish.
One of those two playoff winners was Jordan Spieth, who claimed his first PGA Tour title by defeating perennial contender and 2012 champion Zach Johnson and David Hearn in the 2013 edition. Spieth, 21, is back and is a four-time winner now.
Of course, two of those wins happen to be the first two majors of 2015, the Masters and the U.S. Open. Spieth tees it up for the first time since his victory in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington. Then he’ll head to the Old Course at St. Andrews for the British Open and the third leg of the Grand Slam, a decision that has raised eyebrows. We’ll assume, however, that he knows what he’s doing.
Only five other men have ever won the year’s first two majors since the inception of the Masters in 1934: Craig Wood, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. And only Hogan, in 1953, won the third leg with his victory at Carnoustie, Scotland, in his lone British Open start.
Spieth is the obvious headliner at TPC Deere Run, but Johnson, with a victory and three second-place finishes, and three-time winner Steve Stricker shouldn’t be overlooked. Neither should Kevin Kisner, who was one of the three playoff losers (with Hearn and Robert Streb) to Danny Lee last week at the Greenbrier Classic. The overtime loss was Kisner’s third this year.
Other notables in the field include Stewart Cink, Retief Goosen, Vijay Singh, defending champion Brian Harman and Lee.
CBS Sports’ Matt Gogel, who will be reporting from the 16th tower this weekend, talks about Jordan Spieth, TPC Deere Run and what to look for in the final event before the year’s third major championship.
Jordan Spieth goes for the third leg of the Grand Slam next week at the British Open at St. Andrews, but he chose to play in this week’s John Deere Classic instead of heading to Scotland early to scout out the Old Course. Your thoughts on his decision?
Obviously he won there, so he feels good about the place. And it’s where he got a sponsor exemption, so it’s kind of like paying it forward. Webb Simpson did the same thing at Hartford a couple of years ago, playing in the Travelers after winning the U.S. Open. He committed and then won the U.S. Open and kept his commitment. I think it’s great for the game. And it’s not that difficult now when they can take a charter from John Deere straight into Edinburgh and get there Monday morning. It couldn’t be any easier, and he’ll have plenty of time to get ready for St. Andrews.
We have seen guys like Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson have regular success at TPC Deere Run. These are guys who don’t hit it far, but are great wedge players and great putters. Why are their games so effective at this golf course?
TPC Deere Run is not an overly long golf course, like some other TPCs that can stretch out to 7,500 or 7,600 yards. It’s got a lot of balance to it. I think it’s one of the best TPC courses we see. Here we are in a stretch of three really good ones with Memphis and Hartford and then here. You have to drive it pretty straight there, and Steve and Zach do that well. It doesn’t favor the long hitter. If you’re putting the ball in play and, more importantly, making putts, then that’s a good combination. And that brings a lot of players into the mix if they are doing those things, which a lot of guys are capable of on any given week.
Let’s talk briefly about Kevin Kisner. He lost in a playoff last week at the Greenbrier Classic. It’s his third playoff loss of the year. What could be going through his mind, and how does he bounce back?
A par-3 playoff hole, and he and Robert Streb hit it where you can’t hit it (missing the green). That was a tough break. It’s hard to do, but if he takes the positives out of it, of putting himself in position to win, then that puts it into a different perspective. He beat all but three of the guys in the field last week. At The Players, he beat all but two – and had a putt to win. At the RBC Heritage, there was only one guy, Jim Furyk, he didn’t beat. He just needs to keep doing what he’s doing, and things will fall into place, where he’ll either win by five or someone is going to just hand one to him. That’s how I look at it is just keep being in contention.
Your thoughts on this week’s favorites and dark horses, aside from Zach Johnson, Steve Stricker or Jordan Spieth?
This is a course that has anointed some young players. Brian Harman, who won last year, is playing well. Kevin Kisner has been playing great golf, obviously. David Hearn is another player who lost in that playoff to Danny Lee last week with Kisner and Streb, and he also lost in that playoff to Spieth, so I look at him. Dark horses … I glanced at the field, and that’s a tough call. But I think Tony Finau has been playing really well. He’s a bomber, but I think he has a good shot. Justin Thomas had a tough finish last week at the Greenbrier Classic, but I think he’ll bounce back.
Journalist and author David Shedloski of Columbus, Ohio, has been covering golf since 1986, first as a daily newspaper reporter and later as a freelance writer for various magazines and Internet outlets. A winner of 23 national writing awards, including 20 for golf coverage, Shedloski is currently a contributing writer for Golf World and GolfDigest.com and serves as editorial director for The Memorial, the official magazine of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. He is the author of three books and has contributed to three others, including the second edition of “Golf For Dummies,” with Gary McCord. He’s a fan of all Cleveland professional sports teams, the poor fellow.