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Air Deere draws Open crowd to John Deere

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It looms on the tarmac in Moline, Ill., reminding all that if it’s John Deere Classic week, the British Open is right around the corner. “Air Deere,” as the chartered 767 is called by tournament officials, has become more than just a perk for United Kingdom-bound players; for many PGA Tour types it’s become a reason to come to TPC Deere Run.

The 100-seat charter will leave Moline at 8 p.m. Sunday and fly directly into Kent, England, which is about eight miles from Royal St. George’s – about as stress-free a commute as one can find.

“They want to be fresh and ready for the British Open,” said John Deere Classic tournament director Clair Peterson. “It has done everything that we wanted it to do and preserve the strength of our field.”

In 2007, the year before Peterson began the charter, seven British Open participants played the John Deere and Peterson said nearly all of them had connection or lost luggage issues. In 2008, 21 players flew the charter to Royal Birkdale, followed by 23 in ’09 and 27 last year.

There are currently 20 players signed on to take this Sunday’s charter – including defending Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink, Steve Stricker, Jason Day and Zach Johnson – and Peterson expects that number to increase.

Each first-class seat cost $1,250, which is donated to the John Deere Classic charities. All total the charter cost about $320,000, not a small outlay but worth every zero said Peterson.

“Find anything else we could do for $320,000 that would have that big of an impact on our field,” he said.

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