Rory Takes Tiger’s Old Spot as World’s No. 1 Golfer

5 03 2012

Tiger gave Rory something to think about Sunday, but in the end “Rors” turned his nose up at Tiger’s very Woodsian final round 62 and quietly succeeded Luke Donald as the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer.

McIlroy won the Honda Classic in a style to which he’d like to become more accustomed, fashioning a final round 1-under 69 to win by two shots over the erstwhile world No. 1 and 43-year-old journeyman Tom Gillis, who went a long way toward keeping his Tour card for another year.

Rory has been in contention his last several tournaments but closed the deal only one other time since dominating the U.S. Open at Congressional last year.  At 22 years, 10 months, he’s the second-youngest player ever to ascend to No. 1 status.  Yes, of course, Tiger was younger at 21 years and 24 weeks.

The nascent Tiger-Rory rivalry could foreshadow one of those historic Ryder Cup singles matches for the ages later this year at Medinah.  But before that the two will meet later this week at Doral and next month at The Masters, where both have a history.

Tiger-followers looking for encouraging signs will want to know that Woods led the field in driving distance at 310 yards while hitting 69 percent of his greens in regulation, third best in the field.  That’s good news for Woods as he tries to rebuild his game.  Meanwhile, Rory led in scrambling, getting up-and-down more than 83 percent of the time.


Back for More with Reilly Smith, First Tee of the Quad Cities Junior Course Reporter

9 07 2011

Day One at the John Deere Classic started off great with perfect weather. Throughout the day we watched some of the pros tee off. I was amazed at how far and fast the golfball would go. Also, we learned some very interesting facts about the “ins and outs” of some golf clubs. We interviewed club maker Rusty Estes about the new styles of golf clubs. He said that wood drivers and clubs are long gone; that they will never come back. We found out that longer putters are coming into style instead of shorter putters. Rusty said that the pros like the longer putters better than the shorter putters because they have more control. What I found interesting was that the technology for making clubs hasn’t really changed in the 20 years that he has been making golf clubs.

As the day went on we watched more professionals play and walked some of the holes as we were watching. I talked to volunteer Chris Nowack and asked her a few questions about what it is like to volunteer at the John Deere Classic. To become a volunteer all you have to do is sign up on a website. She told me that she has to get up everyday at four in the morning to be able to get to the Classic by six am. She works a lot of hours everyday from 6 am-2 pm. Chris said that she likes to make sure that everyone that she helps out has a great time and good experience. She told me that she likes to help out because she thinks it’s a great event and that it is good to support the Quad Cities.

I also was able to interview a photographer by the name of Greg Boll. He said that he has been taking pictures for 25 years; first with the Quad City Times and then stared working with the John Deere Classic a few years ago. Greg told me that the third hole is hazardous, with a hard walk up the hill (and that’s why he now has a cart). He says that he is very happy to take pictures of golf because not a lot people like to do it. His favorite hole to take pictures on is hole 18 but only if it has a good crowd along with it. Boll also told me that the best thing about working and taking pictures at the John Deere Classic is that he gets paid very well.

It was a very good and successful day at the first day of the John Deere Classic. So far the leader of Day 1 of the John Deere Classic is Kris Blank with the score of 63. He birdied the last five holes and is eight under par. We all had fun, and my partner, Claire, and I had great experience and wish we could do it again next year. Good luck to the pros for their second day of the John Deere Classic!

A Day at the John Deere Classic with Reilly Smith, First Tee of the Quad Cities Junior Course Reporter

6 07 2011

Today, I got the experience of a lifetime. After winning a contest through the First Tee Program of the Quad-Cities, I spent the day at TPC at Deere Run as a Junior Course Reporter. I was able to meet some pros, volunteers, and many important people at the John Deere Classic. With my press pass, I was able to go “behind the scenes” to places where normal ticket holders could not enter (even my dad!!).

The day started off sunny and hot. I was able to get my press pass and off we went. My dad, partners, and I went to the driving range first to watch the professionals warm up. While I was there, I got to meet some of the reps from various golf companies and ask them a few questions about their occupations and new golf gear. My partner, Claire, and I were able to meet up with pro golfer Brady Schnell and his father, also a pro golfer. During the interview, we learned interesting, great tips, and advice from both of them. Their advice was to always have a good grip, stance, and to find something that your comfortable with each time you hit a golfball. I learned that Brady didn’t start golfing until he was eight, but didn’t really get competitive until he was a freshman in high school.

At ten o’clock, we got the chance to join in on a couple of press conferences with professionals Zach Johnson and two time winner of the John Deere Classic, Steve Stricker. Claire and I were fascinated by how a press conference works. Some of the press would just blurt out questions to the pros. Claire and I waited very politely to be called on. We didn’t get to ask any questions to Zach Johnson, but we were able to ask one question each to Steve Stricker. I asked a question that made the press room laugh at the answer from the pro. It was, “Do you have any family members that golf? If so, have any of them ever beat you?” He responded that his wife, daughter, and his brother-in-law all golf. When he said that his wife came close to beating him, the whole room erupted in laughter. Steve Stricker also said that his brother-in-law, Mario, had beat him once before.

After the press conference, I got the chance to see the pros in action. My dad and I walked some of the amazing and beautiful holes at Deere Run. When the day was done, we stopped by a local favorite ice cream shop, Whitey’s. We found out that during the week of the Classic, they sell around 5,000 ice cream goodies at their stands around the golf course. It was a very fun and interesting day, and I can’t wait to go back.

A Day at the John Deere Classic with Claire Benisch, First Tee of the Quad Cities Junior Course Reporter

6 07 2011

Today I learned that golf is not just professional, but family oriented as well. If you ask most golfers, you would get some answer related to “my dad got me started” or “my family is here today”. I think that is a great thing. Golf is also professional in that a player may not have had the best round and they have to go to a press conference and act like they are not upset. I had the privilege of talking to many people about this golf tournament. One thing for sure is that family is most important whether it is the family of volunteers or the golfer with kids ¬- family is family.

I was allowed the chance to talk with Brady and Curt Schnell. Brady is playing in the Classic this year and has been Nationwide and Dakota’s Tours. Curt is a professional golfer that is currently a teaching professional. When I talked with the two of them today I was able to learn about how Curt was able to teach Brady some of his tricks. Brady started golfing at age 8, but didn’t really get into it until he was a freshman in high school. He said his dad has given him a lot good advice but the best would have been “Work on your short game.” In the past Brady has had a large local following called the “Brady Bunch”. He said it is comforting to be around people that he knows.

Curt Schnell is very proud of his son. He had an opportunity to play in the Classic two years ago but turned it down to caddie for his son. He said that he is very excited that Brady is following in his footsteps, but is most excited that Brady made the decision to work so hard on his own. He has competed against Brady on the Dakota’s tour. I asked him what I should work on as a beginning golfer and he replied “Grip, set-up, and alignment”.

The highlight of my day today was the Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker press conference interviews. I had the wonderful opportunity to sit in on the two press conferences. I did not get to talk with Zach Johnson, but I got to ask Mr. Stricker a question. My question for him was “After having a tough hole, how do you prepare mentally to keep going, knowing you are so close to your third title here?” He replied, “To block that hole out and mentally start over.” Mr. Johnson stated that John Deere has done a “great” job creating and running this tournament, and that it is great to play here.

My comrade and I did a little math, here are some fun facts! For promotion of Deere, the company put $2,432,000 of equipment by the entrance. The cheapest piece of equipment is a kids’ gator for $400. The most expensive was a tractor/planter for $505,000. This is the only place you will see this array of tractors at a tournament on the PGA tours- FedEx Cup.

All in all, today was very fun learning about all the different facts about golf and that family is most important. I can’t wait to see and learn more tomorrow.

Toms Wins at Colonial

23 05 2011

A big congratulations to David Toms, who won the Crowne Plaza Invitational Sunday (May 22) at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth.

Toms, who won his first PGA TOUR event in the Quad Cities in 1997, shot a final round 67 to win by one stroke over Tour veteran Charlie Wi. Toms’ victory came seven days after he lost a sudden death playoff to K.J. Choi at The Players Championship.

The victory was the 12th of Toms’ 22-year PGA TOUR career and the first for the 44-year-old Louisiana native since he won the Sony Open (now Hyundai) in January 2006.

“It just took a lot of guts,” said Toms, who opened the tournament with a pair of 62s but gave up the lead to Wie after shooting a third-round 74. One of Toms’ key shots Sunday was a pitch-in eagle on the 11th hole.

Toms owns one major championship – the 2001 PGA – and is a three-time Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup team member.

Meanwhile, Crowne Plaza at Colonial defending champion Zach Johnson finished solo fourth after shooting a final round 65, giving him five straight rounds in the 60s. The longtime John Deere Classic executive board member’s final round 66 at last week’s Players Championship moved him in to a tie for 12th at that prestigious event.

Also, 2006 John Deere Classic champion John Senden finished in a two-way tie for eighth.

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.