One last Open tuneup

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Players need to bring four things to this week’s John Deere Classic: Their clubs, their ‘A’ game, a week’s worth of cold-weather clothing and their passport.

Success with the first two can lead to the last two items being essential for late Sunday evening for their trip to Northern Ireland.

Confused? Well, don’t be. This week’s event is the final chance for one player to earn a spot in next week’s Open Championship. If a player isn’t qualified and finishes in the top five this week, he’ll pack his bags, grab his wife/girlfriend and jump on a plane to Portrush and the last spot in the field.

Technically, there are still three spots available in this week’s Scottish Open as well, but on U.S. soil, this is it.

The qualifier for the Open Championship has got to have his passport ready to go. The charter will be set to take off shortly after the final round. The qualifier will board the plane along with those who have already qualified and are playing in the John Deere this week.

And the cold weather gear will be essential as we’ve all heard the horror stories about the inclement weather possibilities (and that’s putting it mildly) across the pond. 

Pressure? Absolutely. 

Just ask Michael Kim. Kim won last year’s John Deere Classic and earned his first trip to the Open. He had rounds of 63-64-64-66 to edge ageless Steve Stricker for the title and earn a spot in just his second major. He also earned $1 million (and some change) and made the most of the trip to the Open Championship, finishing T35.

So players will tee it up this week, take a deep breath and look to put together four great rounds and kill three birds with one stone: winning the tournament, solidify their spot in the FedEx Cup race and last, but certainly not least, qualify for the year’s final major.

So who will be this year’s Cinderella story?

We’re going to back two players this week, 1 and 1A if you will. These are two guys who just turned pro and are already getting rave reviews with their continuing education after tremendous college success. 

Viktor Hovland (18-1) and Matthew Wolff (25-1), former Oklahoma State teammates, haven’t missed a beat since hitting the pro circuit. Both are just getting their feet wet on Tour, but their play last week in the 3M Open in Minnesota proves they can compete with the big boys. And, in the case of Wolff, win.

Wolff picked up his first title in just his fourth event as a pro.

This duo is playing their own private game of one-upmanship against each other. Both have played four Tour events. Hovland has three top-15s on his resume while Wolff’s eagle on the final hole for the victory last week gave him his first top-25 finish, as well as the latest one-upmanship with Hovland.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Hovland was the low amateur in both the U.S. Open and The Masters before turning pro while Wolff won the NCAA individual title by five strokes and also won a total of six events during his play this season at Oklahoma State.

With the pressure of big-time college golf in their rear-view mirror, they’ve already made a big impact on the PGA Tour. Now it’s time to step it up another notch and see which of them can up the other by qualifying for next week’s Open Championship.

We’ll also throw in a pick for this week’s Scottish Open as players get in a links event before The Open Championship. For the European guys, it’s a home game while the U.S. guys will be looking to adapt to the time change, weather change and course change.

Henrik Stenson, 18-1, is trending well. He’s had back-to-back top-10s on North American soil (U.S. Open and Canadian Open) so why not keep that trend going?

But don’t count out Rory McIlroy who is back on familiar turf and looking to stay in top form heading into The Open Championship. McIlroy has four top-10 finishes in his last five events, including a missed cut at The Memorial and a victory at the RBC Canadian Open.

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About the Author
Bill Bowman

Bill Bowman

Bill Bowman is a Las Vegas-based writer who has more than 40 years in the sports-writing business. He's spent the past 18-plus years covering the golf scene in Vegas including 10 years as a writer/editor with VegasGolfer Magazine. He also contributes to the GolfNow Network of websites and Las Vegas Golf Insider.

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