In John Deere Classic fashion, a bevy of young stars contending for maiden PGA Tour title
The John Deere Classic has a reputation for jump-starting the career of PGA Tour stars.
Payne Stewart notched his maiden Tour win in the Quad Cities in 1982, and so did fellow future major champions David Toms (1997), Jordan Spieth (2013) and Bryson DeChambeau (2017). Not to mention, 20-year-old Tiger Woods made his third professional start at the 1996 John Deere, capturing his first 54-hole lead. Ed Fiori, though, would hunt down the Big Cat and Woods would tie for fifth.
This year, through 36 holes at TPC Deere Run, a bevy of promising young players are keeping the event’s reputation strong, as they are in prime position to forever change their lives by entering the winner’s circle on Tour for the first time.
Reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Cam Young leads at 13 under following his second round. The 26-year-old has already established himself as one of the game’s premier players despite the world No. 19 not yet claiming that elusive first victory.
Full-field scores from John Deere Classic
“Everybody came here this week to win a golf tournament,” Young said Friday.
Two sponsor’s exemptions — Ludvig Aberg and William Mouw — have their first victories within reach while playing with house money, sitting at 10 under following two rounds.
Many have anointed Aberg, 23, the next big thing. He was the world’s top-ranked amateur at Texas Tech before turning professional at last month’s RBC Canadian Open. There, the Swede finished T-25, followed by a T-24 at the Travelers Championship. Last week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, Aberg contended early, but finished T-40 with a final-round 72.
“Last week was such a fun experience for me to be in that position, which I hadn’t really been in before,” Aberg said after Round 2 at TPC Deere Run. “So I think I’m going to use a lot of those experiences to my advantage this week.”
Straight off of the NCAA Championship in late May, it’s been a jam-packed stretch for Aberg, but he’s trying to “have fun with it.” Doing so, he’s already put himself in a position to possibly make the European Ryder Cup squad. A win might secure his spot on the team, but as he chases victory, he’s not thinking that far down the line.
“If you would have told me a month ago that I was going to be selected to the Ryder Cup, I wouldn’t believe you,” he said. “So obviously, all I can do is prepare for every tournament as good as I can and try to execute my game plan, but we’ll see where that comes. And if it comes, great; if not, I’ll be pretty happy anyways.”
Meanwhile, Mouw is hoping for his own grand introduction in a slightly more unlikely fashion.
The 22-year-old American, who was part of Pepperdine’s 2021 NCAA title, turned pro in June after the NCAA Championship. He has four Korn Ferry Tour starts with three top-25s and made his Tour debut at the U.S. Open, where he missed the cut.
He and Aberg go “way back” to their junior golf days, and are now dueling for a victory on the sport’s biggest stage.
“We’re a bunch of buddies competing,” Mouw said.
Though only one can emerge victorious, there’s little doubt that the future is bright.
“Aberg has been playing really well,” Mouw said. “College golf now is really competitive, and it’s headed in the right direction. Now a few of us are proving it that way. Just happy to be out here with some of the best golfers.”
Maybe, one of these young studs will add their name to John Deere Classic lore, alongside Stewart and Spieth, to kickstart an illustrious career. But whoever falls short this weekend shouldn’t be discouraged — just ask Tiger how it worked out 27 years ago.