Since the John Deere Classic came to TPC Deere Run in 2000, it has routinely produced exhilarating finishes.

From Steve Stricker's 25-foot putt on No. 18 in 2011 and Zach Johnson's 6-iron to a foot from the fairway bunker a year later to Jordan Spieth's greenside bunker hole out, the tournament has delivered plenty of magical moments. 

In the 17 tournaments contested at Deere Run, there has been only two occasions where the winner separated himself by more than three strokes from the field after 72 holes — J.P. Hayes (2002, four-stroke win) and Vijay Singh (2003, four shots).

D.A. Weibring’s design has led to six sudden-death playoffs in that time, including three in the last five years. 

The annual Quad-Cities stop on the PGA Tour is this week. The field of 156 players will include 28 men who have won on Tour at some point in the past 24 months.

Here are 10 things to know for tournament week:

Show me the money

Since 2011, the John Deere Classic has presented its champion with a check, on average, for $837,000. That number is rising substantially this year.

For the first time, the winner will leave the Quad-Cities with a million-dollar payday. To make that happen, the tournament purse had to be bumped up $800,000 to $5.6 million to meet the required payout formula of the Tour.

The JDC was among the lowest top prizes on the Tour last season. Only the Puerto Rico Open ($540,000), Barracuda Championship ($576,000), Barbasol Championship ($630,000) and Sanderson Farms Championship ($756,000) paid their champions less. All of those events are opposite field events of a major championship or World Golf Championship.

“We just felt, Deere as much as anything, that the purse needed to be at a point where we could give a million-dollar check to the winner,” tournament director Clair Peterson said. “That $1 million check will reflect the way we feel about the tournament and the way Deere feels about the tournament.

“It is not always about the money here. It is still 500 FedEx Cup points, but we kind of felt it was time to give a million-dollar check to the winner.”

Captains on board

This year’s JDC field features last year’s winning United States Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III. It also has the captain of this year’s U.S. Presidents Cup squad in Stricker.

Stricker, a three-time champion at TPC Deere Run, has had a hectic year.

Besides his captain responsibilities, he also debuted on the Champions Tour while still competing in nine PGA Tour events. He went through sectional qualifying to play in the U.S. Open this summer that was held at Erin Hills in his home state of Wisconsin.

After the JDC, the 50-year-old Stricker will play the British Open at Royal Birkdale.

“I’ve been practicing a little bit less,” he said. “I’m just playing more competitively. When I was only playing the 12, 14, 15 events last year, I still practiced a lot, and I think that’s why I would come out and play pretty sharply at times.

“If anything, I’ve been trying to conserve energy and trying to get my world ranking up some, so I could play more events and practice a little bit less.”

The Presidents Cup is Sept. 28-Oct. 1 at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Speaking of Cups

The Ryder Cup trophy will be on the Deere Run property this week. According to tournament officials, fans will have the opportunity to get their picture taken with the 4-pound trophy made out of gold Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday.

Peterson said other than two nights where it will be displayed at Deere for dinner events, it will be in the Family Zone.

“The PGA of America has a new initiative to display the Ryder Cup and bring it to the masses,” he said.

Johnson, a member of that winning U.S. Ryder Cup team last fall at Hazeltine National Golf Club, is holding his annual foundation event Monday at Elmcrest Country Club in Cedar Rapids. The Ryder Cup will be there before making its way to the Quad-Cities.

“I can’t wait to see it,” Peterson said. “I’ve never seen it before.”

Another country star invades JDC

Country music sensation Jake Owen participated in last year’s pro-am and held a concert later that evening at Bettendorf’s Waterfront Convention Center.

This year, platinum-selling star Cole Swindell will do the same with all proceeds going to support the Birdies for Charity organizations. Eric Dodd, an up-and-coming country music performer, will serve as the opening act.

Swindell and Dodd will play golf in Wednesday morning’s pro-am with pro Wesley Bryan. That evening, Dodd will take the stage for a private concert around 7 p.m. with Swindell to follow at 8.

The 34-year-old Swindell was quite an athlete growing up. He played baseball, football, basketball, golf and ran track and field.

“I do love golf,” Swindell said in an interview with Cowboys and Indians Magazine. “It is my favorite thing.”

Flying in comfort to Scotland

There are 16 players in the field qualified for the British Open, the season’s third major championship, contested next week at Royal Birkdale.

They are Daniel Berger, Bryan, Roberto Castro, Brian Harman, Charley Hoffman, Charles Howell III, Johnson, Kevin Kisner, William McGirt, Maverick McNealy, Ryan Moore, Kevin Na, Sean O’Hair, Stricker, Kyle Stanley and Bubba Watson.

One more player could join that group on the overnight charter flight overseas Sunday. The highest top-five finisher not already exempt for the British Open secures a spot.

Players will be greeted to a new Airbus A300 jet with 100 flat bed seats.

“We worked cooperatively with the Canadians,” Peterson said. “They found this other charter company that had this improved experience. It wasn’t that much more expensive. 

“We’re just trying to improve every year. That’s an easy thing to point to for us this year.”

18th hole viewing upgrade

For an upgraded ticket price, fans can get an upscale viewing experience at the par-4 18th hole this week.

The JDC has 272 feet of hospitality suites, which includes a 70-foot sports bar that has an area of indoor air-conditioning and outdoor seating with a vantage point to see the greens at 16, 17 and 18.

Tournament officials said the goal was to provide clients with an elevated, premium look.

No ordinary amateurs

Two of the world’s top-four ranked amateurs are in the field on sponsor’s exemptions in Maverick McNealy and Dylan Meyer.

McNealy compiled 11 tournament wins at Stanford, matching that of Tiger Woods and Patrick Rodgers. The 21-year-old, the recipient of the Ben Hogan Award given to the top men’s college golfer, said in May his plans were to remain an amateur through the summer months.

Meyer, fourth in the world amateur rankings, won the prestigious Western Amateur last year. He led Illinois to a Big Ten championship and third consecutive Final Four appearance at the NCAA tournament this spring.

“We’ve kind of made it our thing introducing fans to the next wave of talent,” Peterson said. “I’m really excited to see these guys play.”

Catering to the youth

John Deere will host 100 First Tee participants and parents in the John Deere Skybox behind the 18th green Tuesday. There will be a Q&A session with Tour winner Mark Wilson and University of Illinois standout Nick Hardy.

Then at 2 p.m. Tuesday, the annual Youth Clinic will take place on the Deere Run driving range. Tour veteran Troy Matteson, given a sponsor’s exemption this week, and Meyer will be leading the free event.

Commish in the house

Jay Monahan, who took over as commissioner of the PGA Tour in January, will be on site for the tournament. Monahan is expected to play in Wednesday afternoon’s pro-am with Deere CEO Sam Allen and defending champion Ryan Moore.

Monahan has taken over for Tim Finchem who served as commissioner for more than two decades. The 46-year-old played Division III golf at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

TV coverage

The opening two rounds of the tournament will be televised from 3-6 p.m. Thursday and Friday on Golf Channel.

On Saturday and Sunday, Golf Channel will have live coverage from noon-1:30 p.m. before CBS airs action from 2-5 p.m.

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Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.