Top College Players Receive Invitations To John Deere Classic

SILVIS, Ill. - On Tuesday, the John Deere Classic announced it has awarded sponsor exemptions to Illinois graduate Luke Guthrie and the two freshman finalists for this year's Ben Hogan Award, given to the top player in the college game.

Guthrie, who turned pro last month shortly after graduation, finished tied for 19th Sunday at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, where he was playing on a sponsor exemption. In his first event as a professional, Guthrie shot 3-under par on rounds of 69-71-67-70-277 and finished six shots behind champion Dustin Johnson.

Guthrie's first pro pay check totaled $67,872. Two of the John Deere Classic's other sponsor exemptions went to a couple of world-class teenagers who recently finished stellar freshman seasons: Patrick Rodgers, 19, of Stanford and Jordan Spieth, 18, of Texas, who led his team to the NCAA national team championship.

"The John Deere Classic is pleased to award sponsor exemptions to Luke Guthrie, Patrick Rodgers, and Jordan Spieth, with the goal of giving our fans an early look at three outstanding young players with enormous potential," said John Deere Classic tournament director Clair Peterson. "The John Deere Classic embraces and takes pride in its role as a tournament that is able to provide playing opportunities for young, talented players, and we're very excited with the outstanding group we have invited this year. By inviting up-and-coming young players, the John Deere Classic looks to give our fans an opportunity to get an early look at players who have the potential to become major champions and legends of the game."

Among the John Deere Classic's previous sponsor exemptions are such major champions as Tiger Woods, Zach Johnson, and Lucas Glover. In recent years, the tournament also has awarded exemptions to such players as Jason Day, Bill Haas, Matt Kuchar, Spencer Levin, D.A. Points, Webb Simpson, Kyle Stanley, Camilo Villegas, and Nick Watney, all of whom have gone on to highly successful careers on tour.

Even before they started college, Rodgers and Spieth had compiled amateur records almost unprecedented for players their age. Both played on the victorious 2011 U.S. Walker Cup team and both were quarterfinalists at the 2011 U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills GC in Wisconsin.

A two-time winner of the U.S. Junior, Spieth, a Dallas native, twice made the cut at the PGA Tour's Byron Nelson Championship, finishing tied for 16th in 2010 and tied for 32nd in 2011 (while missing his high school graduation ceremony). As a freshman, Spieth won three events for the Longhorns and logged nine top-10 finishes in 11 starts.

He led his team with a scoring average of 70.68. In 34 rounds, he broke par 20 times and recorded 15 rounds in the 60s. The 6-foot 1-inch first team All-American currently is ranked No. 7 in the highly regarded Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking.

Rodgers, of Avon, Ind., outside Indianapolis, won the 2010 Western Junior and the 2011 Porter Cup prior to starting college. At Stanford, he won his first event as a freshman when he triumphed at the Fighting Illini Invitational at Olympia Fields CC outside Chicago.He was the first Cardinal freshman to win his first start since Tiger Woods.

Rodgers is a first-team All-American with a team-leading stroke average of 70.7. He was the Cardinal's top finisher in 10 of 12 events last season, posting 10 top-10 finishes in 12 starts, including another victory at the Western Intercollegiate in Santa Cruz.

Rodgers, who stands 6-foot 2 and weighs 165 pounds, is ranked No. 3 in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking. Both Spieth and Rodgers are expected to compete in the John Deere Classic as amateurs.

This year's $4.6 million John Deere Classic once again will offer an exemption to the highest finisher among the top five not otherwise exempt for the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes GC in Lancashire, England.

Because last year's winner, Steve Stricker, already was exempt, Stanley took the exemption and finished 44th at the British Open. This year marks the fifth consecutive year the John Deere Classic will operate a charter jet service directly to the site of the British Open from Quad Cities International Airport in Moline, Ill.

Tickets for the John Deere Classic are available at or by calling 309-762-4653.

The PGA Tour began its run in the Quad Cities in 1971. John Deere, whose world headquarters is in Moline, Ill., assumed title sponsorship of the tournament in 1998. The tournament moved to TPC Deere Run in 2000.

The tournament helped raise a record $5.29 million for nearly 500 charities in 2011, ranking it first on the PGA Tour overall in per capita contributions at $14.11 for each of the 375,000 residents of the Quad City area and eighth overall on the PGA Tour.

The John Deere Classic, which includes Birdies for Charity, is a non-profit organization located in the John Deere Classic tournament offices at 15623 Coaltown Road, East Moline, Illinios. Since its founding in 1971, the tournament has helped raise $43.23 million for charity.


Please Share