SILVIS, Ill. — Through the years, the John Deere Classic has been a tournament where young players kick-start their careers. Proof of that is the 23 first-time PGA Tour winners among its 50 champions. The most recent one, though, certainly doesn’t fit that mold.
Lucas Glover, 41, was the champion when the John Deere Classic completed its 50th playing on Sunday, and he’s certainly no up-and-comer.
Glover has been on the PGA Tour since 2004. He even won a major — the 2009 U.S. Open at New York’s Bethpage State Park’s Black Course. That major title came on a day similar to Sunday at TPC Deere Run — a day-long drizzle on the heels of heavy overnight rain. Despite that U.S. Open accomplishment, Glover had not won on the PGA Tour in 10 years, his last victory coming at the Wells Fargo Championship in 2011.
“It turned into a long week with the weather, but I seem to do all right in the mud,” Glover said. “I always thought I could do this again. I just needed to figure out the best way to go about it.’’
Before Glover, the John Deere Classic had three champions in a row — Bryson DeChambeau, Michael Kim and Dylan Frittelli — who won their first PGA Tour event at TPC Deere Run. Glover’s final-round playing partner was Adam Schenk, who best represented this year’s “first-time” candidates.
In Schenk’s three previous seasons on the PGA Tour, he failed to finish in the top three at any tournament. The former Purdue golfer was tied for second — but three strokes behind Glover — when they finished their round, but he wound up in a tie for fourth. Kevin Na and Ryan Moore shared runner-up honors, two strokes behind Glover’s winning 19-under-par 265.
Glover, who shot a final-round 64, and Schenk started six groups in front of the last twosome of third-round leader Sebastian Munoz and Brandon Hagy, who was also a potential first-time winner, but wound up tied for 18th after shooting a 73.
Munoz was out of it early, with two bogeys in the first three holes, but he rallied to finish T4 with Schenk, Luke List and Scott Brown.
Glover had his own game plan.
“The focus starting out was aggressive, make as many birdies as possible and then see where we are coming to the middle of the back nine, if it’s going well,” Glover said.
It wasn’t going well. Glover was just 2-under-par after making a bogey at No. 11 — but then everything got better in a hurry. He strung together four straight birdies and had five in his last seven holes. That put him in control the rest of the way.
The only business left was to determine who would be on the evening flight to this week’s British Open. The John Deere Classic gets a ticket, but Glover was already qualified. He would was on the flight along with Munoz, C.T. Pan, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Byeong An, Keith Mitchell, Russell Henley, Zach Johnson, Chez Reavie, Alex Noren, Kevin Streelman, Daniel Berger and Brian Harman. Three British Open alternates — Harold Varner III, Troy Merritt and Adam Long — also opted to take the jet across the pond.
Though the John Deere Classic is entitled to a spot in the British Open field, there was some doubt as to who would take the slot. With Glover, who will be making his 11th British Open appearance, already in, Na and Moore were next in line. Na, though, had already announced he was not going and Moore didn’t appear anxious to go, either.
“I need to talk to my wife about that, but she’s going to tell me to go,” he said. “We’ve had a family trip planned for next week basically for the last few months. At this point in my career I’ve played a lot of golf tournaments. I don’t want to bail on a trip like that.”
PGA Tour officials said that Long, the top alternate, would get the ticket.