This week at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., Steve Stricker has the opportunity to accomplish a rare feat when he tees it up in the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic.
Stricker is the three-time defending champion there and is hoping to make it four in a row -- something only four other people have done in the history of the game.
Along with that, the John Deere Classic is also the last tune up before the third major of the season next week -- the Open Championship.
Before the tournament kicked off, we caught up with TPC Deere Run PGA Head Professional Andy Stoterau for a little Q&A. He talked about Stricker, the stellar field, the course conditions and more.
PGA.com: Thanks so much for joining us, Andy. Let's start out with your three-time defending champ Steve Stricker, who's looking to make it four in a row this week. First of all, can you speak to just how impressive that feat is? And secondly, what is it about TPC Deere Run that fits Steve's eye so well?
Stoterau: For one, the feat has been accomplished by only four other individuals in the history of golf. Young Tom Morris (British Open, 1868-70 -- no event in '71 -- and 1872), Walter Hagen (PGA Championship, 1924-27) Gene Sarazen (Miami Open, 1927-30), and Tiger Woods (Bay Hill, 2000-2003 and Buick Invitational in San Diego, 2005-08). Those are four names you want to be compared with! And let's be honest, the strength of the PGA Tour is the depth of its membership. To beat a field of 156 of the best players in the world four times in a row is quite an accomplishment and worthy of all the hype. Steve is just so consistent with his wedge game and his putting at this event has been unbelievable. Coming from Wisconsin, this is as close to a home court as he can get and I think this course just really fits his eye. Steve is very comfortable with his surroundings and feeds off the public's support.
PGA.com: Year in and year out, players rave about the conditioning of the course. What is it that makes TPC Deere Run so special?
Stoterau: It comes from a commitment of excellence our Agronomy Team has year round. Led by Paul Grogan, the staff strives for consistency year round with the anticipation that this week in July we are at our very best. Routine is very important for our men and women in that department. That practice begins in March when we open and continues through the John Deere Classic until we close in November. This makes for great playing surfaces all year for the general public and doesn't require a whole lot more for tournament week. That attention to detail makes this event a scoring dream and always brings out an exciting John Deere Classic finish.
PGA.com: It's not always common for a tournament played the week before a major to have a strong field. That never seems to be a problem for the John Deere Classic however. Why is that?
Stoterau: We've really embraced this week. Our sponsor, John Deere, puts on a wonderful show and the community support is second to none. In 2011, the John Deere Classic was awarded the PGA Tour's "Most Engaged Community" Award. With a population of less than 400,000, the JDC consistently draws more than 100,000 spectators.
Last year, we raised 5.3 million dollars for local charities. This recognition is very rewarding and makes us all proud of the opportunity to be a part of such an important impact to the community. I believe the Tour players recognize this, see the support that we have and want to participate in an event like this. In 2008, John Deere introduced the John Deere Classic Jet Experience. This is a private charter transport from the Quad Cities to the British Open. It too has been a tremendous success. This jet is the best way to travel to the British Open. A 100-seat all first class Boeing 767 jet with extra wide leather recliner-style seats and two meals served on board. It lands before noon on Monday and players don't have to worry about their golf clubs or luggage. They load those on the jet themselves. The ease and comfort this provides makes participating in the John Deere Classic even more attractive.
PGA.com: In 2012, Kyle Stanley was your runner up. I'm sure you saw his crushing defeat at Torrey Pines earlier this year, only to bounce back the very next week to win in Phoenix. What does it mean to you -- and others involved in the John Deere Classic -- to see a young player like Kyle who performed wonderfully in your event, show resilience and go on to win on Tour?
Stoterau: All of us are very proud of the participants in the field. When Kyle missed that short putt on No. 18 during the 2011 John Deere Classic and then turned around and watched Steve Stricker pull off one of the great birdies of the entire year to defeat him by a stroke, I couldn't help but feel a little sad for Kyle. I'd like to think we all did. Then to see him make three quality shots at Torrey Pines on 18 and watch that ball spin into the pond, the same feelings came back. It was a testament to his ability as a golfer and his character as a person to see him go on the next week and win at TPC Scottsdale and the Waste Management Open. We are very excited to have Kyle back this year and I am confident he will put on another great show this week.
PGA.com: Final question for you, Andy. From your point of view, what will make this a perfect tournament week?
Stoterau: Great weather, huge crowds and another finish that we'll remember for a very long time.