Wheatcroft leads Deere, DeChambeau withdraws

Writing from Silvis, Illinois

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The most amazing round of golf in Illinois on Thursday was undoubtedly JoAnne Carner’s age-equaling 79 in the opening round of the Inaugural United States Senior Women’s Open Championship at Chicago Golf Club.

Illinois men’s coach Mike Small’s co-leading 65 in the Senior Players Championship at Exmoor Country Club wasn’t too shabby either.

Regardless, Steven Wheatcroft will take his tidy 62 at TPC Deere Run, thank you very much. He birdied nine holes, made nary a bogey and finished in 7-under 29 to top off his tournament-leading 9-under round, doing so with a driver that wasn’t a day old.

“I’d hit one or two screw balls around that cost me a bogey or double bogey,” Wheatcroft said of his recent play. “I got tired of that. The Callaway guys came out and worked with me a little bit yesterday, and we put a new driver head on.

“It was really good. It’s nice knowing I could aim down the middle and it wasn’t going to be a wipe right.”

The other side of golf was represented by defending champion Bryson DeChambeau, who injured his right shoulder early in the round and had to withdraw in pain after his tee shot on the 16th hole. He hopes to play in next week’s British Open.

Wheatcroft’s splendid score earned him only a 1-stroke lead on Michael Kim, whose nine-birdie round was offset by a lone bogey.  Johnson Wagner, Canadian Nick Taylor, Joel Dahmen and Argentina’s Andres Romero are two strokes behind after their 7-under 64s.

If these aren’t household names, it’s not a surprise, as first, the John Deere Classic – maybe because of the high water of the Rock River – is the breeding ground for first-time winner. Second, the Official World Golf Ranking verifies the lead sextet’s locations on the list as 927th for Wheatcroft, 473rd for Kim, 396th for Wagner, 259th for Taylor, 298th for Dahmen and 292nd for Romero. The average ranking for the six is 440.83, which is as far from world No. 1 Dustin Johnson as Venus is from Mars. And it’s hard to get there.

Wheatcroft made his move with birdies on his last six holes, then had an idea.

“I tried to keep the round going,” he quipped. “I asked if we could just go to the first tee and start Round 2.”

Maybe it was the kid who kept appearing at each green and cheering for him.

“Every time we would walk by we would kind of fist bump,” Wheatcroft said. “I kept looking, ‘Yeah, he’s back again. Why is he following our group?’ ”

Kim went around Deere Run only slightly less perfectly, sinking a 40-footer and a pair of 20-footers, all for birdies.

“I got a good mental note from the morning warmup today and rolled it great,” Kim said. “It was just a different thought process while going through it. More of a feel than anything.

“I’ve been feeling pretty good about my game the last couple weeks, just haven’t been able to hold it together for the entire day. But it’s nice to get a low one today and see all the new things I’m working on.”

DeChambeau’s withdrawal a painful one

DeChambeau’s troubles began when he flew his tee shot on the par-5 second into heavy rough on the right. It set forth a disastrous turn of events.

“I just didn’t feel great after that,” DeChambeau said after emerging from the fitness trailer with his right shoulder in an immobilizing sling. “Probably overloaded the muscle.”

The 24-year-old stopped his takeaway on the 12th hole, then reloaded and his he second straight shot well to the right. That was the beginning of the end. Even though he was only 3-over through 15 holes, the pain on his tee shot on the par-3 16th was enough for him to turn to fellow competitors Davis Love III and Ryan Moore and call it a day.

“Life just throws you curve balls and you’ve just got to work with them,” DeChambeau said. “It’s not fun. It’s saddening.”

DeChambeau believes he’ll be able to play in next week’s British Open, and plans to fly to Scotland with that in mind after a few days of treatment.

“Oh yeah,” DeChambeau said. “I’m not going to not make the trip. I can still swing and hit a shot. I just don’t think it would be productive to do so. I don’t feel it’s going to be too long a recovery time.”

DeChambeau withdrew from the Valspar tournament in March with a back injury but came back to finish second in the following week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“My body is pretty resilient,” DeChambeau said. “I’m young. I think I can recover in time.”

Instant Tour caddie

Elias Francque, who turns 17 on Friday, received an early birthday present when Steven Bowditch picked him from a large number of Twitter hopefuls to caddie for him this week. Francque, from Park Ridge, started caddieing at Park Ridge Country Club. About 30 loops into his caddie career, he was on the PGA Tour.

“I was nervous on the first tee, but it got better after that,” Francque said. Bowditch scored 2-over 73 on Thursday and is in danger of missing the cut after a double-bogey, bogey finish, but provided a thrill when he holed out for eagle from 172 yards on the par-4 fifth, the only eagle of the day on a par 4 hole.

“Only club the kid pulled all day,” Bowditch kidded.

Francque, who has a pair of uncles who work for John Deere, is staying with his grandparents in nearby Geneseo this week. 

Around Deere Run 

Nick Hardy is tied for 11th after a bogey-free 66, needing only 28 putts. Two weeks ago, Hardy tied for 11th in the Travelers Championship, his first PGA Tour start as a pro. .. Fellow Illinois alum Dylan Meyer put together a 3-under 68 with only one bogey. ... D.A. Points, who went to Illinois almost before Hardy and Meyer were born, scored 2-under 69 and is threatening to make the cut for only the second time in a dozen starts. He last advanced to the weekend in 2011. ... Winfield’s Kevin Streelman also shot 66, matching his opening round of 2013.... Former champion and JDC board member Zach Johnson also scored 69, while three-time champion Steve Stricker returned a 70. ... Vince India of Deerfield, a Monday qualifier, was also at 70. ... Doug Ghim of Arlington Heights put together a 2-over 73, while Iowa grad Brian Bullington of Frankfort, also a Monday four-spot survivor, was at 3-over 74. ... Ninety-five of the 156 players were under par and another 17 were at par. ... The scoring average of 69.645 was the eighth-lowest in a first round since 1991. ... Rory Sabbatini also withdrew after firing a 1-over 72.

Tim Cronin

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>
« Kim finds putting key, leads Deere by 4 | Main | Hoffman's 65 leads in Women's Western qualifying »