Hot weather and bent grass on a golf course is usually a bad combination.
However, thanks to some tender loving care, the TPC at Deere Run course is holding up well and ready to host the PGA Tour's $5.8 million John Deere Classic that begins this morning.
“The course looks really good,” said Dillard Pruitt, who again served as PGA Tour advance man for the 48th annual event. “Conditions are going to be not as firm, but we have good grass and healthy grass, and that's a good thing.”
It hasn't been easy for Deere Run superintendent Alex Stuedemann and his staff to diligently nurse the course through some incredible heat the last month and have it in championship condition.
“It's all about water management on the golf course,” Stuedemann said. “You have to walk a fine line in maintaining moisture for the turf, but if you get it too wet, it's almost as if you boil it in this weather.”
That, he said, has resulted in constant monitoring of conditions, including having his staff at the course until well into the evening hours “checking tees, greens, fairways for wilt and decline and just keeping a very tight line on it,” he said.
So what does that mean for the conditions the players will see this morning?
“A very similar golf course to year in and year out — maybe a little firmer,” Stuedemann said. "Speeds are about the same. Rough is still thick and challenging. We try to give them the same golf course, and we're very close to that.”
Which is something Pruitt and the rest of the PGA Tour agronomy staff appreciate when it comes to setting up the course for the 156-player field.
Pruitt reported that the rough was topped at 3.5 inches, “and I would think by Sunday will be around 5 inches," he said. “It's going to be high, but it should be. The fairways are semi-generous here, and conditions are not extremely firm. The rough is healthy.”
He said greens are set to roll at 11 and maybe reach 11.5 or 12 by the weekend, with the main goal being keeping them healthy.
Off-season work on holes 15 and 16 will lead to a few new looks. The 15th green was re-graded to allow for a back-left pin position, and the 16th tee was rebuilt and expanded.
However, the new area on the 16th green — expanded and re-graded to allow for a back-left pin position — is not ready for use this year.
“We're going to give it another year to really heal in and be strong for that pin position and then see how the tournament plays it,” Stuedemann said. “For 15, it's entirely at their discretion and up to the setup official for the PGA Tour to decide if they want to put a pin there. But it's there for them.”
And like the entire course, it is in good shape and ready to go thanks to Stuedemann's watchful eye and the dedicated work of his staff.
“Alex has presented us with another masterpiece here,” JDC tournament director Clair Peterson said.
“We're real happy,” Stuedemann said. “I can't say enough about our staff and their efforts and dedication especially over these last few weeks with the weather. They really take ownership of the property and love to see the success for the JDC folks and what they do for the local charitable piece.”