Oh Deere Here Wie Go Again

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2006 John Deere ClassicThe John Deere Classic is one of the PGA TOURs more obscure and lightly-regarded events. Its situated right before the Open Championship, which means the top-ranked players would rather skip this one and head over to the U.K. a little early to acclimate themselves.
 
And a $4 million purse doesnt have the lure that it once had.
 
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie's late collapse cost her a chance to make the cut in last year's John Deere Classic.
Vijay Singh did have a two-year run in this event, but when he made his tournament debut in 2003 it was contested near the end of the season, after the PGA Championship. He won on that occasion and made the honorable decision to return for his title defense in 04, when the event was contested the week before the British. He tied for fourth that year and hasnt since been back.
 
Yes, the John Deere Classic could easily be overlooked this week. But it wont be. And it has nothing to do with any of the 155 guys in the field.
 
It has to do with the one girl.
 
John Deere officials got just what they intended a year ago when they invited Michelle Wie to compete in their tournament ' attention, attention, attention. And now they want a second helping, which is why they asked Wie back.
 
Wie, of course, once again accepted their invitation. And now she wants something, too: a made cut.
 
Then a 15-year-old amateur, Wie was in great position to become the first female in 60 year to make a cut on the PGA TOUR. She opened in 1-under 70 to place her just over the projected cut line. Then in the second round, while wearing a belt buckle with 68 on it, she played her first nine holes in 3 under to get to 4 under for the tournament.
 
She remained on that number over the first five holes of her back nine, but then the wheels came off. She double bogeyed the sixth, bogeyed the seventh and parred her final two holes for an even-par 71. Her 1-under total left her two off the final cut.
 
The now 16-year-old professional has competed in one more TOUR event since the John Deere, missing the cut at this years Sony Open, thus dropping her record to 0-4 in relation to cuts made on TOUR.
 
This will continue a busy and high-profile summer for Wie. She attempted and failed to qualify for the mens U.S. Open. She then missed out on a playoff in the U.S. Womens Open by a stroke. Just last week, she made it to the quarterfinals in the HSBC Womens World Match Play Championship ' as the No. 2 seed.
 
Once again, Wie will be the center of attention in Silvis, Ill. ' at least for the first two days. But while she will just be trying to stick around for the weekend, most everyone else will be trying to win the tournament.
 
Here are our five favorites to do just that:
 
J.L. Lewis
Count Lewis as one man who doesnt miss the likes of Singh, Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson at the TPC at Deere Run ' or even Jim Furyk or David Toms, for that matter. Lewis is the man to beat year-in and year-out in this event. Over his last seven starts, he has four top-10s. His victory in 1999 sparked this run, but, ironically, that win came at Oakwood Country Club, the year before Deere Run took over host duties. The change in venue hasnt negatively affected Lewis. He tied for eighth in 2002; tied for second in 03; and tied for fourth a year ago.
 
Zach Johnson
Zach Johnson
A win this week would likely secure Zach Johnson a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Johnson knows all about winning the week before a major. His only TOUR win came in the 2004 BellSouth Classic, the week before the Masters Tournament. He is playing this tournament, which isnt too far removed from his Iowa roots, for the fifth straight year. He missed the cut in his first two starts, but has finished T20, T36 over his last two tries. Johnson is another guy who is playing well of late. He tied for fifth at the FedEx St. Jude Classic and tied for second at the Memorial Tournament. He has four top-5 finishes on the year, and a similar result this week will go a long way to wrapping up a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. He is currently seventh on the U.S. points standing.
 
Steve Flesch
Flesch has only played this tournament twice before, and not since missing the cut in 2002. But he is playing very well of late. The left-hander tied for 13th at the Booz Allen Classic and tied for ninth at the Buick Championship. After missing the cut in five of his first 12 events of the year, he has made nine in a row.
 
Jeff Sluman
Sluman is another guy who is playing his best golf of the season in recent months. The 48-year-old money maker tied for fifth at the Barclays Classic and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open. He has played this tournament 16 times, dating back to 1983. Hes played it as the Miller High-Life Quad Cities Open, the Lite Quad Cities Open, the Hardees Golf Classic, the Quad City Classic, and the John Deere Classic. Sluman has five career top-10s here, compared to only two missed cuts. His best result is a fourth-place finish in 2001.
 
Sean OHair
OHairs world was turned upside-down after winning the John Deere last year. It was not only the rookies maiden TOUR victory, but it also qualified him for the Open Championship, for which he and John Deere tournament officials scrambled to send him to St. Andrews. Voted Rookie of the Year in 2005, last year was a fairytale season for OHair; 2006, however, has been an awakening experience. He has missed the cut or withdrawn in nine of 19 starts this year and doesnt have a top-10. He may not join David Frost (1992-93) as the only men to successfully defend their John Deere titles, but perhaps a good finish this week will carry him to success later in the year.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - John Deere Classic