Former JDC exemption Day shines in Augusta debut”

14 04 2011

Jason Day at the 2010 John Deere Classic

Australia’s Jason Day, who finished second yesterday at The Masters, played his first PGA TOUR event at the tender age of 18 at the 2006 John Deere Classic.

Tournament director Clair Peterson gave Day an exemption after Day won the 2006 Australian Amateur Stroke-Play Championship, the crowning achievement of a highly decorated amateur career Down Under.  Day made the cut at TPC Deere Run, finished 67th, and earned his first PGA paycheck, worth $8,200, in the Quad Cities.

“We’re really happy for Jason,” said Peterson.  “He’s a terrific young man with a world of talent.  His journey from pretty humble beginnings in Australia to the upper echelon of the PGA TOUR is an example of a very talented individual working very hard to get the most out of his natural abilities.  The fact that he also happens to be a really likeable young man is a bonus.  He has been very loyal to the John Deere Classic.”

Day’s caddie at this year’s Masters was Col Swatton, the same man who caddied for him at the ’06 John Deere and who doubles as Day’s swing coach.  The two met when Day was attending an Australian golf academy where Swatton was a coach.  Swatton also was Day’s best man when Day married his wife, Ellie.

Day tied for 15th at last year’s John Deere Classic.  He missed the tournament in 2007 while playing on the Nationwide Tour, but has been back ever since, and is expected to be in the field this year, too.

In his final round at Augusta National, Day shot a 4-under par 68, which included impressive back-nine birdies at Nos. 12, 17, and 18.  He ended the tournament at 12-under par, two shots behind winner Charl Schwartzel of South Africa.


Stricker Has a Good Week at The Masters

14 04 2011

2009 & 2010 John Deere Classic Champion - Steve Stricker

Two-time reigning John Deere Classic champion Steve Stricker had a pretty good week in Augusta.  Most importantly, he finished among the top 16 at The Masters, meaning he’ll be invited back to compete next year.  Stricker tied for 11th place at 5-under par 283 on rounds of 72-70-71-70.

On the eve of the tournament, Stricker also picked up the ASAP Sports/Jim Murray Award at the annual Golf Writers of America Association dinner.  The Murray Award is given to the player who’s most cooperative with the media and is named for the late great Los Angeles Times sports columnist Jim Murray.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel golf writer Gary D’Amato, who has covered Stricker since his junior golf days, told the audience that Stricker “has never changed. He’s still the polite, respectful, down-to-earth person now that he was as a junior golfer.”

A case of a nice guy finishing first.  Stricker will be trying to be the first player ever to win three straight times in the Quad Cities when he defends his title at this year’s John Deere Classic.

Zach Johnson to be Honored by Drake University

25 01 2011

John Deere Classic Board of Directors Member, Zach Johnson

On Tuesday, Zach Johnson will be honored by his alma mater, Drake University, as the school will present the 2007 Masters champion with the Double D Award — the highest honor Drake bestows on its former student-athletes.

The Double D award is given to former letter winners for their achievements and contributions to their profession and community after leaving Drake.

Johnson, who played at Drake from 1995-1998, not only won the Masters, he has represented the United States on the 2007 and 2009 Presidents Cup and 2006 and 2010 Ryder Cup teams.

In 2010, Johnson captured the championship at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, his seventh win on the PGA TOUR.

In terms of community service, Johnson worked with the TOUR to help set up a flood relief fund after his hometown of Cedar Rapids suffered massive floods in the summer of 2008. He also organized a pro-am event that raised more than $350,000.

In July of 2010, Johnson announced the formation of his foundation that will benefit children in need in the Cedar Rapids area. He will host a tournament in August that will be the centerpiece of his foundation.

“Receiving the Double D recognition from my alma mater is a tremendous honor,” Johnson told The Des Moines Register. “I cherish my years in Des Moines and I am proud to be a graduate of such a prestigious school.”

Johnson received a Business Management/Marketing degree from Drake in 1998.

Drake will host a news conference Tuesday, with the traditional Double D Dinner to follow that evening.

Johnson also will be honored at halftime of Drake’s men’s basketball game against Missouri State, where he will present the school with a check of $100,000 from his Ryder Cup charity allocation.

Click here for more information about Zach’s charity efforts

Bowled Over? Golf Is Back!

6 01 2011

For those who’ve had their fill of post-New Year’s Day college bowl games, the PGA TOUR brings the sights and sounds of golf and Hawaii back to prime time this Thursday night.  And not a moment too soon.

The Hyundai Tournament of Champions at the glorious Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort on the island of Maui begins the 2011 PGA TOUR season on The Golf Channel. It’s the first year for new sponsor Hyundai, which took over for Mercedes after a long run.

Denizens of the frozen North can huddle around their HDTVs from 4:30-9PM Thursday-Sunday on the Golf Channel. Views of the frozen tundra right outside their rattling windows will give way to awesome video displays of the world’s best golfers playing one of the world’s most beautiful courses – most likely under warm sunshine!

Winners of 2010 events are eligible to play in this invitational and most of them plan to be there. The field includes John Deere Classic champion Steve Stricker (who also won the Northern Trust in Los Angeles), John Deere Classic executive board member Zach Johnson (winner at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial CC in Fort Worth), Player of the Year and three-time winner Jim Furyk, and U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, who also beat Tiger Woods in a playoff at Tiger’s Chevron invitational event late in last year after sinking the winning putt at the Ryder Cup.

Other multiple winners expected to be on hand are Dustin Johnson (AT&T Pebble Beach, BMW Championship, Shark Shootout), Hunter Mahan (Waste Management Phoenix Open, WGC Bridgestone), England’s Ian Poulter (WGC Match Play and Shark Shootout with Johnson), Bill Haas (Bob Hope, Viking Classic), and Justin Rose (Memorial, AT&T at Aronimick).

Among other players familiar to John Deere Classic fans will be Tim Clark (Players), Jason Day (Byron Nelson), Bubba Watson (Travelers), Jonathan Byrd (Justin Timberlake/Las Vegas), and Carl Pettersson (RBC Canadian Open).

Missing will be European notables Lee Westwood of England, Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, Martin Kaymer of Germany (winner of the PGA Championship), and British Open champ Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa.  Also skipping the event will be Masters champion Phil Mickelson.  Tiger Woods won’t be there either, as he didn’t win a tournament last year for the first time in his career.

Bubba Primed for JDC

28 06 2010

The John Deere Classic already had 23 recent tournament winners in its field.

Make it 24.

Bubba Watson’s sudden death victory Sunday (June 27) at the Travelers Championship outside Hartford increased by one the number of recent champs coming to TPC Deere Run the week of July 5-11.

The long-hitting Watson earned his first career PGA TOUR victory by holing a three-foot putt for par on the second hole of a three-man sudden death playoff at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut. 

Watson, Corey Pavin, and Scott Verplank all finished at 14-under par 266 after 72 holes. Watson and Pavin both shot 4-under par 66s in the final round while Verplank shot 64. 

Pavin was eliminated after the first playoff hole when both Watson and Verplank birdied No. 18 while the 2010 Ryder Cup captain could manage only a par. 

Watson won with a par on the second playoff hole – the difficult par 3 16th – when Verplank missed an eight-foot par putt.

Watson has played the John Deere Classic three times since 2006, made the cut twice, and earned $67,061.

Zach Johnson Wins at “Hogan’s Alley”

31 05 2010

Zach Johnson overcame withering heat and two weather delays to shoot his second consecutive 6-under par 64 Sunday (May 30) and win his first event of the season at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club in Ft. Worth, Texas. 

Johnson finished with a four-day total of 21-under par – a tournament record – on rounds of 65-66-64-64—259 over the par 70 course.  He defeated second place finisher Brian Davis of England by three strokes thanks to his second straight back nine 4-under 31.

It was the seventh career win for the 2007 Masters champion, Cedar Rapids native, and John Deere Classic executive board member, who prevailed on the same hallowed ground where fellow bantam-weight Ben Hogan recorded five victories between 1946 and 1959, leading to its nickname “Hogan’s Alley.”

With the victory, Johnson moved to No. 12 on this year’s Ryder Cup points standings, 14th in FedEx Cup points, and earned $1.116 million, elevating him to 15th on the PGA Tour money list.

Johnson’s five-birdie, one-bogey back nine 31 on Sunday was made possible by as impressive a stretch of long putting seen on Tour this season.  The Zach Attack dropped in putts of 10 feet (No. 10), 22 feet (No. 12), 25 feet (No. 13), 20 feet (No. 15), and 15 feet (No. 17).  His only bogey came on No. 14 when he lipped out a five-foot par putt after a poor drive.

As much as his hot putter, Johnson attributed the victory to an improved outlook facilitated by sports psychologist Dr. Mo Pickens.

“I was trying to force things for a period there,” Johnson said.  “I was too concerned about Sunday on Thursday just because I felt my game was in good condition. I felt like I should be able to contend and win rather than letting it happen.”

Johnson said Pickens simply reassured him he was doing the right things.  Johnson then began focusing on what he could control – his process – not what he couldn’t – the outcome of a given tournament.  The mentality helped him when the chips were down.

“Going into the back 9, my mind frame was, I don’t care if I win this golf tournament, or I don’t care if I lose it,” he told reporters afterward.  “ I’m content with whatever happens. I’m going to go out fighting, and I’m going to go out aggressive. Outside of missing a few fairways I played pretty solid on the back 9.”

Johnson said the key putt for him was the 20-footer for birdie on No. 15, which came after he blasted out of a bunker following the first one-hour weather delay. “Rather than get me excited, it calmed me down,” Johnson said.

The second big putt was his fist-pump-inducing15-footer on 17, which got him to 21-under.

“As far as momentum and just a big putt, that was a big one,” he said. “I didn’t have a number in my head, but I figure if you get to 21, you got a pretty good chance.”


– The winner at Colonial receives a tartan plaid jacket.  Johnson already has an Augusta green jacket he received for winning the Masters.

– Steve Stricker, defending champion at both Colonial and the John Deere, finished at 8-under par for the tournament, a tie for 38th.  It was Stricker’s first start following a six-week hiatus due to a chest injury. Stricker is set to defend his John Deere title July 5-11 at TPC Deere Run, where Johnson finished second last year.

– Johnson and Phil Mickelson now are the only players on the PGA TOUR with victories in each of the last four seasons.

– Among the 48 rounds recorded by the 12 players tied for 10th place or better, 47 were in the 60s. Bryce Molder shot a 70 on Sunday.


Below are Zach Johnson’s comments to the media following his victory Sunday, May 30 at the 2010 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club.

John Bush is a Media Official with the PGA TOUR.

What they said: Zach Johnson

May. 30, 2010

MORE INTERVIEWS: Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial transcript archive

JOHN BUSH: We would like to welcome our 2010 champion of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, Zach Johnson, into the interview room.

Zach, just a phenomenal performance by you all four rounds and a tremendous 6 under par 64 today.

If we could get your comments on a great round and a great week.

ZACH JOHNSON: Well, first of all, thank you. Yes, it was, I felt good coming into the week.

Looking back on recent history, I played San Antonio. I shot 80 the first round, which was probably one of the better things that could have happened to me, because I kind of re evaluated some things mentally.

Fortunately, I adjusted pretty quick, went out there and shot 4 under the next day with no bogeys and just felt really good. So I missed the cut, went home, had a good off week.

I came into this week in good spirits. No pressure, nothing to lose sort of spirit and fortunately it went my way.

Thursday was probably one of the better days I had ball striking for the year. I think I missed a green in regulation. I’m just kind of loving the week. And today my putter got obviously hot specifically on the back 9. I’m very humble.

JOHN BUSH: Zach collects 500 FedExCup points and moves all the way up to 14th on the list. Zach, I know by your standards it’s been a fairly slow start to the year. Talk about what this victory does for you.

ZACH JOHNSON: Yes, well, slow just based on my finishes. But I feel like I’m a better player now than I was last year. A better player now than I was certainly two or three years ago, whatever.

I was trying to force things for a period there. I was too concerned about Sunday on Thursday just because I felt my game was in good condition. I felt like I should be able to contend and win, and rather than letting it happen.

I’m certainly okay with any outcome, missed the cut, make the cut, Top 10 win what have you, but I just wasn’t putting that into play and I think, you know, certainly with some help from my sports psychologist Dr. Mo Pickens, just reaffirming that I’m doing the right things and my coaches and my trainers reaffirm me that I’m doing the right things, and I haven’t deviated.

My foundation and my system remains the same. Obviously it works sometimes.

JOHN BUSH: We’ll go into questions?

Q. Zach, when you made the putt on 17, obviously you were pretty excited at that point, talk about the emotions of it because I know you felt that was a clinching putt then you had to sit and wait for 30 something minutes before playing again?

ZACH JOHNSON: Yes, I didn’t think it was a clinching putt. There is frustration having to go in and out, there is no question about that. We are used to it. We are going to be a part of it again; probably a good chance next week. It’s just part of the game.

As far as momentum and just a big putt, that was a big one. I didn’t have a number in my head, but I figure if you get to 21, you got a pretty good chance.

Quite frankly, the biggest one I thought, you know, was probably on 15 because we had a good hour delay there. I had a pretty difficult lie. I made a good 20 plus footer there. I don’t know what it was. That one kept me, rather than excited, it calmed me down which was nice.

Q. Zach, just about your putting in general today, I mean in clutch time you really came through with several 20 footers and 25 footers, just talk about that.

ZACH JOHNSON: I don’t know if it all evens out in the end, but I feel like the way I’ve struck the ball the first three days, it kind of evened out. I was in here yesterday, and John mentioned I think yesterday I had 28 or 29 putts. But the previous two days I had 30 and 31, or 31 and 32, and I was 9 under par.

I was kind of due to make some putts as well as I was hitting it and the opportunities I gave myself. I just remained patient.

Going in the back 9 I had some opportunities up front. But going in that the back 9, my mind frame was, I don’t care if I win this golf tournament, or I don’t care if I lose it. I’m content with whatever happens. I’m going to go out fighting, and I’m going to go out aggressive. Outside of missing a few fairways I played pretty solid on the back 9.

Q. Zach, when you went in with the first delay, you were in a tough spot on 15. Talk about whatever you did there, you came back out and kind of sealed the deal between that and the next delay, what took place in your mind and subsequently on the course?

ZACH JOHNSON: Well, yes, during the delay, the only thing that was going through my head, I was excited because I think I was tied for the lead at the time. I made bogey on 14 or whatever. But, you know, I told myself, you know, obviously you got to calm down.

But the one thing I wanted mentally to fixate on was the things that I could control. Those things that I could control certainly are my rhythm, my tempo, how I walk and my routines.

And, you know, good or bad, the outcome was insignificant. That was my approach during both delays certainly. But especially the first one. I hit some good practice shots on the range, and I went out there and executed pretty nice.

Q. Can you talk about being paired with Ben today, because on 18 he was acting like almost that he had won?

ZACH JOHNSON: Yes and no. That’s Ben. Ben is an excitable guy. He is a very charismatic type guy, high energy guy. We’ve been good friends for years. Our families are good friends. We are both Christians, so we had a lot in common. Walking with him today on Colonial on Sunday was great. It was an honor because we’re so close. I pray for him and he prayed for me. I’m not saying that’s why we play well, but we pray for peace and contentment. I think there is a lot of truth to that. I love that guy.

Q. Obviously, you’ve got a green jacket now but talk about having a plaid jacket and just adding to the collection there?

ZACH JOHNSON: The green one was humbling, probably a little bit more surreal. I used that word a lot back then in ’07, because it still is. This one is very humbling and, you know, just knowing the gentlemen that have dawned this jacket and will dawn this jacket and putting myself in that company is very humbling.

JOHN BUSH: Three wins in Texas and 3 in Georgia.

ZACH JOHNSON: I moved to Georgia. I’m not moving to Texas, I don’t think. I wouldn’t mind it, but she wouldn’t like it. We just moved about a year and a half ago. I don’t think she wants to move any time soon. I love being here. Certainly the golf courses were part of it, but the people have always been kind. I tend to schedule around food and I love the food here. I’m all about it.

Q. Talk about holding the scoring record here at Colonial at 22 under. Did you ever think that could have been done?

ZACH JOHNSON: I wasn’t aware of it until someone mentioned it on 18 green. Yes, records are made to be broken, the old cliche. I’m a little shocked that I did it. But at the same time given the conditions, I don’t think we’re going to see four days like this, probably not again this year. But probably never again here. Even on Tuesday there was no wind. There was maybe a half club wind the entire week. I doubt there was a full club of wind.

When the greens are receptive, and the heat comes in, I don’t know if it’s the heat that brings in the wind, I don’t know what it is, but the greens have to stay saturated otherwise they’re going to die, so they have to keep them hydrated. You can be aggressive with your shots and certainly with your putts. It’s all relative.

If there was some wind today, or this past week, it wouldn’t have been 21 under. Obviously, scores are really, really low and the guys that were just behind me had an opportunity to go 21 or even more. I just fortunately got to right side of the draw.

JOHN BUSH: Let’s go through the card. Birdie on No. 1

ZACH JOHNSON: I hit a good drive on 1. Actually probably the best drive I hit today. I had a perfect number. It was a stock 5 wood in there, and I dead pulled it. It was a terrible golf swing. Got ahead of myself there, kicked left, richocheted left, went onto the cart path between 1 and 2. I took a drop behind the cart path, and then my goal there was to try to get it within 15 or 20 feet.

I hit it perfect, but I kind of pushed it just a little bit and it went up there and lipped out I guess. I probably made a five footer for birdie. That got the momentum going.

Another good birdie on 2, great drive, great second shot, four feet, made that.

10, I hit a 3 iron off the tee just because my 5 wood, I didn’t know if it was going to go too far, I hit a 3 iron. I hit it a little further than I wanted to. I hit a punch 7 iron in there to about ten feet, right center, pretty straight putt and that kind of got me going.

12, hit a poor drive again in the right rough. I had 145 to the front, 160 something to the hole. I had an 8 iron out. It was not a good lie. I’m like, I can’t hit this thing 145 yards. So I went back to a 7 and just swung as hard as I could, chopped down on it, landed on the front of the green 22 feet maybe, I don’t know, dead center.

13, I had a great number, probably 180 to the hole. My 6 iron has been flying 185, 190. I figured if I hit it behind the hole, I’m taking the water out of play. I hit a nice solid shot, 22 feet, 25 feet maybe. I don’t even know. That was just one of those putts. I’m just trying to get it going and it dropped.

14, poor drive down the right again. I didn’t hit that bad of a second shot, it kind of jumped right and into the trap. Hit a great sand shot, long sand shot to probably five feet, which is all I can ask for. I was trying to get within ten feet or so.

That was a bad putt I hit there. I was a little indecisive with the read and I pulled it and it lipped out.

15, I hit a drive to the right again, punched a 7 iron into the wind from 165 and made a 20 footer.

17, hit a 4 iron because the ball is going so far there, yesterday at least. It was perfect, I had 140 to the hole, a little bit downwind, hit a normal wedge to 12, 15 feet and made it.

JOHN BUSH: Questions?

Q. Drawing the pairing with Ben how much does that help on a pressurized Sunday like that? Does it help to calm you?

ZACH JOHNSON: It’s nice. It’s comforting just because I know what he’s all about and I know how he approaches his game. Does it matter in the end? Probably not.

I did play with a good buddy of mine Vaughn Taylor at Augusta on Sunday in ’07. I feel like my caddy, who is also one of my really good friends, Damon Green, I’m playing with my friend every day.

I’m just lucky to have him. I should have mentioned him on the green. I feel bad because he’s worked so hard. We had some ups and downs. He is a stud. He’s a stallion.

JOHN BUSH: Zach, congratulations once again.


24 05 2010

When news came that Jason Day had recorded his first PGA TOUR victory Sunday (May 23) at the HP Byron Nelson Championship outside Dallas, his name likely rang a bell for close followers of the John Deere Classic.

Now 22 years old, Day made his tournament golf debut in the United States at the 2006 John Deere Classic at the tender age of 18.  He made the cut at TPC Deere Run, tied for 67th, and cashed a check for a much-needed $8,200.

A native of Queensland, Australia, Day was a force in amateur golf Down Under and was regarded by some as “the next Tiger Woods.”  After a standout junior career, Day won the 2006 Australian Amateur Stroke Play championship and played on the PGA TOUR of Australasia.

When he was seeking opportunity in America, he looked to the Midwest and asked John Deere Classic tournament director Clair Peterson for a sponsor exemption.

Request approved.

Day’s first trip to the PGA TOUR winner’s circle took longer than he and others expected.  In 2007, he became the youngest winner ever on the Nationwide Tour at the age of 19 and earned his PGA TOUR credentials.  In his first full year on TOUR in 2008, he earned $767,393 in official money.  Last year, he won $1.25 million, making the cut in 14 of his 18 events and finishing 69th on the money list.

Prior to last week, Day was having a decent if not spectacular year, but he had been rounding into form in recent weeks, posting three top 25 finishes. After Sunday’s victorious conclusion, Day stands 23rd on the official money list with $1.36 million in earnings so far this year.

Day, who tied for 15th last year at the John Deere Classic, plans to return to this year’s event,  July 5-11 at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill.