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Jordan Spieth, Jason Day return to 2024 John Deere Classic

Jordan Spieth, Jason Day return to 2024 John Deere Classic

Clair Peterson has waited a long time to welcome back what he called “two favorite sons.”

Peterson, the former tournament director of the John Deere Classic, once wooed a pair of teens – one a newly-minted 17-year-old pro from Australia and the other a 19-year-old member of the national championship-winning University of Texas team – to the northwestern corner of the Land of Lincoln and Silvis, Illinois, one of the cities referred to in these parts as the Quad Cities.

Jason Day, the Aussie, made his PGA Tour debut here in 2006 and cashed his first Tour check – for $8,200 – while Jordan Spieth, the Texan amateur, arrived in the summer of 2012 and went home with something every bit as valuable as money – confirmation his game was Tour ready.

Day came back five consecutive years, finishing T-5 twice, but hasn’t returned since 2011; Spieth won the title in 2013 and 2015 but hasn’t been back either. Peterson spoke to their various camps every year and made his pitch, even whispering sweet nothings in their ears on the range at Torrey Pines in San Diego in January 2022 that the tournament that July would be his 20th and final year as tournament director.

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“Jordan was so gracious but I kind of felt like even at that point they had his schedule together and it wouldn’t work out,” Peterson said.

Day agreed to play in 2022 but ended up withdrawing before the tournament began citing a back injury. Peterson never took rejection personally as Day and Spieth both won majors among their 13 Tour titles and each reached world No. 1.

“It’s tough, once you’re getting into all the majors and the Signature events, you can play all over the world, it’s tough to build a schedule and include our event,” Peterson said. “But here they are this year coming back and recognizing that we gave them a spot, it’s exciting to have them here and that’s the value of the relationships, I think. There’s no expiration date on ’em.”

Spieth has been absent for nine years, but his victories are part of the tournament highlight reel that still play regularly in Peterson’s head. Competing on a sponsor’s invite as a pro in 2013, Spieth holed a bunker shot on 18 in the final round that got him into a three-man playoff with David Hearn and Zach Johnson.

“It was one of the biggest roars that I ever heard,” Peterson recalled.

Jordan Spieth defeated Tom Gillis in a playoff to win the 2015 John Deere…


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