What the top three contenders are playing for at the John Deere Classic
The nature of an important looming two-week stretch abroad means the 2023 John Deere Classic doesn't boast the most stout field on the PGA Tour’s schedule. But that doesn't mean the action itself isn't compelling. Coming into the final round, there are a few interesting storylines at stake. With the biggest names in golf resting up, Sunday may be the best opportunity for the rest to accomplish something truly career changing.
Let's break down what some of the contenders are playing for.
A validating victory
A win is a win, but for certain players at the top of the leader board, picking up the trophy on Sunday would bring with it a long awaited sense of validation.
Cameron Young, the highest-ranked player in the field this week at World No. 19, is one of them. Young has finished inside the top 10 in three of his last six majors, including at the 2022 Open Championship, and notched a runner-up finish at the WGC-Dell Match Play earlier this year. But that first PGA Tour victory has eluded him. Fans are wondering: Why can’t this guy win one?
Young came into Saturday as the 36-hole leader, but some scrappy chips and putts led to bogeys on the sixth and seventh holes. Then, after birdies at 16 and 17, a series of duck hooks (one of which ended in the hazard) resulted in a double bogey on the 18th hole. His even-par 71 dropped him to 13 under and three back of the 54-hole lead. He'll need to recover in a hurry if he hopes to shake his winless PGA Tour career.
Denny McCarthy and Adam Schenk come into Sunday T-2, one back of Brendon Todd's 16-under lead. Like Young, they'll each be hoping to grab their first overdue victory here. The former lost in a playoff to Viktor Hovland at the Memorial last month; the latter has finished runner-up twice already this season.
Ryder Cup points
Automatic spots on each respective Ryder Cup team are running out quickly—and with the final major of the year just two weeks away, there won't be many more coming available. It means those with Rome ambitions are effectively playing for Captains' Picks. Finish as high up the rankings as you can, and force the captain into picking you.
For Young (currently 10th in U.S. Ryder Cup rankings), McCarthy (14th) or Schenk (24th) a win could do just that. Same for Sepp Straka on the European side (10th in Europe's World Points ranking), who is four back heading into the final round.
Fifty-four-hole leader Todd, whose third-round 66 leaves him with a one-stroke cushion at 16-under, is currently 42nd in the rankings. He has a lot of work left to do to convince Captain Zach Johnson he deserves a spot, but there is no better place to start making that argument than with a win on Sunday.
And of course, wins and Ryder Cups aside, there's the basic—and important—perk of status to play for. The Genesis Scottish Open will award a sponsor's exemption to any player not already in the field. Todd, Peter Kuest and Jonas Blixt are some notables inside the top six who would qualify for that.
The case of Kuest is especially interesting. The 25-year-old BYU graduate Monday Qualified for the Rocket Mortgage Classic last week. His top-10 finish there qualified him for the John Deere Classic this week, where he's now two shots back of Todd heading into Sunday. Special temporary status on tour for the remainder of the season is guaranteed so long as he finishes the final round. And now suddenly, full status on tour is within reach. It's a hot run he's cooked up. Sunday will show if he can turn up the heat even higher.