Vegas odds add up to 62 at Deere

Writing from Silvis, Illinois

Friday, July 12, 2019

Golf’s magic number is 59.

Lately on the PGA Tour, the number is 62.

Six rounds in a row on the circuit, someone has posted a 62. It happened four days running at the 3M open. Roberto Diaz threw a 62 on the board on Thursday at TPC Deere Run. Friday’s second round of the John Deere Classic, Jhonattan Vegas had the honor.

“These guys are good,” goes the slogan the Tour used a few years ago. But a 62 every day? What goes on here?

In Vegas’ case, hard work on the range Thursday night after an opening 67.

“I feel I’ve been struggling with my ball-striking all year for some reason and just decided to reset my posture,” Vegas said. “It was magic.”

Yes, that’s the start of the Deere’s slogan: Magic Happens Here. But magic is achieved only through hard work. Vegas started on No. 10, birdied the par 5, and two holes later decided to start aiming for the cup on every approach.

“I hit a real good 6-iron that I left about 10 to 15 feet,” Vegas recalled. “From there I got loose.”

Birdies on Nos. 13, 14, 16 and 17 followed for an outward 31. A trio of birdies beginning on No. 2 and another on the par-4 eighth brought him in in 31, and another 62 went into the ledger. But on a Friday, all that means is a later tee time on Saturday.

“Every day brings something different,” Vegas said.

If that sounds philosophical, there’s good reason. He’d missed seven cuts in 19 starts this season, including at the U.S. Open, his previous start. But Thursday was good and Friday was better.

Vegas’ aggregate of 129, a spiffy 13-under, earned him the lead in the 49th Deere at the halfway mark. He’s a stroke ahead of Andrew Landry, who equaled his opening 65, two ahead on Cameron Tringale and Lucas Glover, whose 255-yard approach from the middle right of the fairway on the par-5 10th bounced four times, took a hard right and ducked into the hole for an albatross, and three ahead of the threesome of Harold Varner III, Russell Henley and Daniel Berger.

Glover’s double-eagle, achieved with a 3-iron, was the seventh on the PGA Tour this year and the second in John Deere Classic history. Frank Lickliter smacked a fairway wood 257 yards from fairway to cup on the second hole in the first round of the 2000 Deere, the first year it was played at Deere Run. The course usually has a plaque on the spot of the strike, but it’s taken out during tournament week.

“I don’t expect anything,” Glover joked after signing for a 7-under 64. “Frank’s was probably where he was aiming. I was trying to hit it over short left, chip up the green and I pushed it five-eight yards.”

The cut fell at 3-under 138, and brought 80 of 156 players into the weekend’s festivities. One of those – on the number – was Zach Johnson, who became so enthralled with the Deere, he’s been a member of the tournament board for years. But his play hasn’t been up to his usual standard. He bounced back from his opening 1-over 72, which ended a run of 41 straight rounds at Deere Run under or at par, with a 4-under 67 to advance.

“There were more solid shots, but not enough,” Johnson said. “A couple of decent saves, two-putt saves, that sort of thing.”

Johnson won the British Open at St. Andrews in 2015, so would like to be in good form going across the pond.

“There are some things that feel better,” Johnson said. “Some things that I can capitalize with and move up the board. I’m hitting my line with my putter. That would be a distince positive, but I’m struggling to find others.”

Johnson starts Saturday’s play 10 strokes behind Vegas. Odds are that on Sunday night when he boards the tournament charter for Northern Ireland, he’ll still be behind Vegas.

Around Deere Run

Michael Wolff might have been an interesting interview after his even-par 71, which placed him at 4-under 138, but his agent denied reporters the opportunity to question last week’s surprise winner. ... Peter Uihlein scored 1-under 70 and was going to miss the cut at 2-under 140, but was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. ... Illinois favorite Dylan Meyer missed the cut after a second-round 76 and kicked himself for doing so. ... The field averaged 69.948 strokes in the second round and is at 69.774 strokes halfway through the week.

Tim Cronin

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