Players start gathering at TPC at John Deere Run in Silvis on Monday for the first of Illinois' two stops on the PGA Tour this season.
If this year's version of the John Deere Classic is anything like last year's, it'll be something special.
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Last year's tourney got off to a rousing start with Paul Goydos shooting 59 and Steve Stricker 60 in the first round. After three rounds, eventual champion Stricker had birdied half the holes he played -- 27 birdies in 54 holes.
This year the former Illini golfer will try to become on the 20th player in PGA Tour history to win a tournament three straight years.
There's no reason to think this year's $4.5 million event will be anti-climactic, however. In a most unexpected boost for the tournament, Louis Oosthuizen, the reigning British Open champion, was a surprise entry.
Oosthuizen will defend his British title the following week. In the past, the defending champ has played his last tuneup tournament on the European PGA Tour.
He used part of his British winnings to buy a John Deere tractor for his farm in South Africa and wanted to visit the John Deere plant in the Quad Cities.
A few days after Oosthuizen's surprise commitment, 2009 British champion Stewart Cink also entered. Both can take advantage of the inexpensive direct flight to the British arranged by JDC director Clair Peterson that'll depart from the Quad Cities airport shortly after the last putt in his tournament drops on July 10.
JDC week will begin with a Fourth of July pro-am that will include John Daly as one of the participants. The second round on July 8 will be Illini Day, with Illinois alums Stricker, Mike Small, D.A. Points, Scott Langley and Joe Affrunti expected to get extraordinary gallery support.
It has been a great year for all of them except Affrunti, the Tour rookie from Crystal Lake has been plagued by a shoulder injury and will be looking for a good performance to jump-start his season.
Stricker won the Memorial tourney before tying for 19th at the U.S. Open in his last start. Small made the cut in the St. Jude Classic, the PGA Tour stop in Memphis, before defending his title in the Professional Players National Championship. Points won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, his first win on the PGA Tour. Langley is adjusting to pro golf after winning the 2010 NCAA title.
They're working together:
The Western Golf Assn., which has been staging tournaments since 1899, and the Women's Western Golf Assn., which has put on a nationwide amateur championship for 110 years, are now working together. The WGA will provide administrative support to the WWGA championships beginning in 2012.
"We're excited to enter into this partnership for two golf organizations with a storied history to work together," said John Kaczkowski, president and executive director of the WGA, which hosted its Junior tourney at Beverly Country Club in Chicago last week and will stage its Western Amateur at North Shore in Glencoe beginning Aug. 1.
The WWGA will hold its Junior championship at Flossmoor Country Club July 11-15.
"This partnership will provide long-term stability for our organization and tap into the wonderful talent and resources of the Western Golf Assn.," said Flossmoor's Linda Gilley, WWGA president.
The new agreement could turn into a big deal. While any such announcement would be highly premature, this joining of forces could lead to the revival of the Women's Western Open, a major event on the LPGA Tour from 1930 to 1967. Chicago has been without an annual LPGA tournament since the Kellogg-Keebler Classic was last held at Stonebridge in Aurora in 2004.
Did you know?
The match play portion of the 92nd Chicago District Amateur starts today at Medinah, with the final scheduled for Friday. … Chicago's qualifier for the U.S. Senior Open is Wednesday (June 29) at Wynstone in North Barrington. … The last of seven qualifiers for the Illinois Open is Thursday at downstate Effingham Country Club. … Four Chicago players finished in the top 33 at the Western Junior Championship last week at Beverly. Arlington Heights golfer Doug Ghim (a sophomore at Buffalo Grove) finished 11th, Carpenterville's Scott Cahill (Jacobs High School grad) tied for 22nd, Deerfield's Bennett Lavin (Deerfield H.S. grad) tied for 31st and Roselle's Danny Stringfellow (St. Viator grad) tied for 33rd. Texan Connor Black won the title ... Northwestern senior David Lipsky was named an honorable mention all-American, the 20th in the history of the NU program.
• Len Ziehm's golf column appears Wednesdays in the Daily Herald. To contact him, visit lenziehmongolf.com.