Recruiting Players for This Year’s John Deere Classic

22 03 2010

After spending a couple of days talking to PGA TOUR players at this week’s Transitions Championship in the Tampa Bay area, it became apparent why the future of the John Deere Classic is looking so good: it’s all about “The Jet.”

Yes, the players love TPC Deere Run as a golf course. They enjoy the genuinely friendly, small town atmosphere of the Quad Cities and its residents. They “dig” title sponsor John Deere and its Tuesday night “Big Dig” shindig, where they and their wives and kids play in a giant sandbox on real Deere construction equipment.

But as professionals who travel for a living they really value the ability to hop on the tournament’s non-stop charter to the British Open on Sunday evening after the event and be on the driving range on Monday afternoon Scottish time.

This year, the jet will leave Quad City International Airport and have them at St. Andrews Monday afternoon with many hours of sunlight remaining. That’s at least 24 hours sooner than most players would arrive at a domestic event, as Monday is customarily regarded as a “travel day” and most players don’t even go to the course.

Most importantly, traveling by charter enables the players to avoid the curse of international commercial airline travel: namely, losing their clubs and luggage. Legion are the stories of players who flew commercial to the British Open, lost their clubs and golf clothes, and didn’t get them until Wednesday night before the first round. Kind of unnerving, especially for a guy who plays the game for a living.

“You still got the jet?” any number of players said to tournament director Clair Peterson as he strolled the driving range at Innisbrook Resort. “We do,” Peterson said. “I’m planning to be on it,” was the reply.

Among those who indicated they’ll be at this year’s JDC are defending champion Steve Stricker and past champions Kenny Perry (’08), Jonathan Byrd (’07), John Senden (’06), and Sean O’Hair (’05). Local favorite, JDC board member, and 2007 Masters champ Zach Johnson, who finished second to Stricker at last year, will be there. Other top players – some better known than others – who unofficially indicated they plan to be in the Quad Cities were Ricky Barnes, Jason Day, David Duval, Brant Snedeker, and Bubba Watson.

Here’s the epiphany, though: In the “pre-jet” era, it was common for players to say they’d play in the John Deere Classic “if I don’t get in the British Open.” That attitude has changed completely.

Asked whether he plans to play at the John Deere, rookie phenom Rickie Fowler said, “I will for sure, if I’m in the British Open. I want to get on that jet.”

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