Bryson DeChambeau celebrates with the trophy after winning the John Deere Classic golf tournament, at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill. DeChambeau will defend a title for the first time in his career this week at the John Deere Classic. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

DeChambeau looking to repeat at John Deere Classic

For the first time in his PGA Tour career, Bryson DeChambeau will enter a tournament looking to defend a title.

DeChambeau’s breakthrough on the PGA Tour came last year at the John Deere Classic, which tees off on Thursday at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois. After entering the final round four strokes off the pace, DeChambeau birdied six of his final nine holes for a one-shot win over Patrick Rodgers.

DeChambeau will enter this year’s event as a strong contender to repeat as its champion as well.

With most of golf’s big names playing the Scottish Open in preparation for next week’s British Open at Carnoustie, DeChambeau is the highest-ranked golfer in the field.

The 24-year old DeChambeau is sixth in the FedEx Cup standings after winning the Memorial Tournament earlier this season. He is also 22nd in this week’s world ranking.

“There has been a lot of things that have happened over the past couple years, growing a lot definitely, and just learning how to make better decisions for my body, my health, my game, and figuring out ways to execute shots better and more on demand,” DeChambeau said.

Two of the most notable names in the Quad Cities event are Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson— a pair of Midwesterners who make it a point to play the TPC Deere Run every summer.

Three of Stricker’s 12 career wins came at the JDC from 2009-11, and he finished tied for fifth a year ago.

Johnson grew up an hour west of the course in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and is so connected to the tournament that he’s on the board of directors. Johnson, who has shot 37 consecutive rounds of par or better at TPC Deere Run, tied for 12th at this year’s U.S. Open.

I “feel really good. I think if my caddie was up here he would be more honest. He feels really good. When your caddie feels confident in what you’re doing you know you got some stuff going,” Johnson said.

A pair of international golfers— Joaquin Niemann of Chile and Francesco Molinari of Italy — are playing about as well as anyone in the field heading into the weekend.

Niemann, just 19, has four top-10 finishes in nine PGA Tour starts and has already earned a special temporary membership after posting back-to-back top 10s earlier this season.

Molinari won the last PGA Tour event he played, the Quicken Loans National, by shooting 8-under in the final round. Molinari also won in England on the European Tour in May.

“I think for me being European, obviously first thing was to come over here and prove myself. So to get the first win already, I think it’s a big achievement,” Molinari said. “But I’m young enough or not old enough to think that I’ve got a few years in front of me, and definitely the goal is to win more,” Molinari said.

Dylan Meyer, a former All-American from Illinois who finished tied for 20th at the U.S. Open, leads the list of young golfers competing on sponsor’s exemptions — a tradition that’s become a big part of the John Deere Classic.

DeChambeau and Johnson competed at TPC Deere Run on exemptions early in their careers, and Jordan Spieth won his first career title while on one in 2013.

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