SILVIS, Ill. – Amateur Patrick Rodgers won a sponsor exemption with a sentimental letter to the John Deere Classic tournament committee.
He looked intent on proving himself worthy Thursday with a 4-under-par 68 in the opening round.
Rodgers, who will be a sophomore at Stanford in the fall, is playing in just his second PGA Tour event. He missed the cut at the Travelers last month in his first appearance, also playing on a sponsor invite.
“Just to test my game at this level against the best players in the world and under the highest pressure is really valuable experience that I can take back to amateur golf,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers grew up in Indianapolis and played in the John Deere Junior event run at a course near TPC Deere Run. He came over to watch the PGA Tour event with a friend while playing in that and followed Jonathan Byrd when he won in ’07.
“We watched the entire final round and couldn’t get enough of it, so we just kind of hung around and waited for everybody to leave and then walked the back nine and relived everything that we had just seen,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers is keeping up the amateur profile in PGA Tour events. Texas sophomore-to-be Jordan Spieth, who also is playing John Deere, tied for 21st at the U.S. Open, where 17-year-old Beau Hossler got into contention on Saturday before faltering on Sunday. Rodgers and Spieth were finalists this year for the Ben Hogan Award as the nation's top collegiate player with UCLA's Patrick Cantlay winning it.
Rodgers is well aware that the Q-School window that allows a direct jump to the PGA Tour is closing after this fall, but he hasn’t announced any plans to turn pro. Spieth is playing Q-School as an amateur. He’ll have the option to turn pro and claim any PGA Tour status earned in Q-School.
“Whenever the time comes, I’ll make the next step,” Rodgers said.