John Deere Classic has seen famous, unknown winners

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April 2, 2014 | 3:29 pm

SILVIS, Ill. -- You don’t know what you’ll get from the John Deere Classic.

Last year’s PGA Tour event here had a heavy Midwest influence, with Wisconsin’s Steve Stricker winning and Iowa’s Zach Johnson tying for second. But since the tourney moved to TPC Deere Run in 2000, champions also have heralded from Australia and Fiji.

Some of the champs have been among the sports Who’s Who, like Stricker (the world’s fourth-ranked player), Vijay Singh and Kenny Perry.

But others — Michael Clark II, David Gossett and Mark Hensby — got their sole Tour wins here and flamed out.

This year? Will the winner be Tim Clark, who won The Players Championship in May? Clark has played well here before.

Will it be Rickie Fowler, the 21-year-old who has a pair of second-place finishes in this, his rookie season?

Will it be a hungry no-name who has shown signs of breaking through? Will it be an accomplished veteran, like K.J. Choi or Stuart Appleby?

Will it be Johnson, the world’s 19th-ranked player?

Or will it be the defending-champ Stricker, who holds the JDC in the same high esteem as does Johnson?

“This was a very special win for me last year,” said Stricker, who has eight PGA Tour wins, four in the last 14 months.

“Winning here in the Midwest, basically home turf, not far from Wisconsin. I went to the University of Illinois and had a lot of U of I fans and Badger fans, and so this is a very special place to win.”

A Friday rainout forced the players to play 36 holes on Sunday. Stricker had a 67-64 to keep the field at bay on the par-71 course.

Johnson won the Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, in May for his seventh career Tour win in seven seasons.

“It’s always great to be back,” he said about the Deere this week. “It’s like going to a nice restaurant. You just never get a bad bite. That’s kind of the way I feel about this place.”

Johnson shot 64-66 here on Sunday last year to go from tied for 30th to his share of second place. His previous best finish in the tourney had been a tie for 20th.

“It was satisfying to play well on that golf course,” Johnson said during a stop in Cedar Rapids.

“People always say it’s hard to play in front of your family and friends. It shouldn’t be for me now since I’ve had so much experience doing it.

“But ... I kind of feel like I play in front of a home crowd nearly every week. That may sound weird and it may be far-fetched, but there are Iowa people everywhere. Just ask my caddie.

“Next week, across the pond (at the British Open), I guarantee it. I’ll bet the farm. I don’t have one, but I’ll bet it.”

Johnson’s tee time today is 12:28 p.m. His playing partners are Clark and Bubba Watson, who won the Travelers Championship two weekends ago.

TOURNAMENT AT A GLANCE

  • What: John Deere Classic
  • Where: TPC Deere Run, Silvis, Ill. (7,257 yards, par-71)
  • When: Today, starting at 7 a.m., through Sunday
  • TV: Today-Friday 2-5 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 2-5 p.m. (KGAN)
  • Purse: $4.4 million (winner, $792,000)
  • On the Web: www.pgatour.com

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