The field at the John Deere Classic was filled by those players who are concentrating on the Minors this year. And that of course, would be because most of them don’t get to play in the Majors. But if golf tournaments were judged by criteria other than the size of the cities in which they are played, and the quality of their fields, I think the John Deere Classic would be numbered among the best on the PGA Tour.
Despite a lack of big-name players, the standard of play at the fabulous new TPC at Deere Run over the last two years has been astonishing, and last week’s event was no exception. After theatrical playoff victories for J. L. Lewis and then Michael Clark, this year we saw the emergence of a young man whom I believe will be a superstar. The gallery in Moline is hardly spoiled with top-class golf, but they know a future champion when they see one.
There was magnetism about David Gossett on Saturday and Sunday, and it was with a growing sense of the inevitable that I watched his play. Not since Tiger showed up have I felt so certain that I was watching something truly special. Not that he didn’t come with credentials. I heard a lot about how he was used to competition at a high level and his U.S. Amateur title, but all the time I’m thinking, this is the PGA Tour, and if he wins, somebody is going to give him a half-million dollars. I don’t care what anyone says about the importance of winning titles, it’s still more fun to spend the money and the thought of that kind of cash will make most people’s butt cheeks slam together with a bang over a three-footer. U.S. Amateur my ass. I bet he won the club championship a few times as well, like that was relevant coming down the stretch.
Everything about this young man screamed “Winner,” from the moment I joined his group halfway through the front nine in the third round. He walks with the gunslinger swagger of Gary Cooper, and plays with the intensity of Gary Player. Throw in the fact that he thinks with his chin up, no matter what just happened, and you have the reason why a burned out old fart like me is so deliriously happy to be an announcer these days.
I have a feeling that trying to beat this guy may become a little tedious for many out there, some of whom will soon wish they had a job like mine. Suffer, boys, I saw this coming and quit about 10 minutes after Tiger turned pro. This is the next wave and a lot of very good players will be waving good-bye to Gossett, who will see them in his rear view mirror. Not so bad either last week, were Briny Baird and a supporting cast of great young players. Briny hung in all the way to the death, and is a credit to his dear old Dad.
While the Battle at Bighorn was in prime time, I doubt if many who saw it found it more compelling than the John Deere. The more observant may have noticed that Tiger has been looking a little bemused at press conferences these days when he is confronted with the shock, horror, and amazement of those who wonder why he doesn’t prevail more often. He knows how tough it is to win, even at the Quad Cities. Golf might be getting ready to take another surge and this correspondent will be grateful for an opportunity to describe it.