INDEPENDENCE - For Independence, the prep football season opener bore little resemblance to its winless 2016 campaign.
Even in defeat, a clear message was sent that there are brighter days ahead for the Mustangs.
Independence nearly matc ... »
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SILVIS, Ill. — Ryan Moore won the John Deere Classic Sunday. He’s a superb player who has five PGA Tour wins, and he should savor the good times as long as they last.
"I went out there this week and gave it my best and actually ended up on top," Moore said. "It’s a great feeling.
“I always want to win every single tournament I play. Of course, I’m constantly disappointed.”
He isn’t alone. Ten years ago, Geoff Ogilvy won the U.S. Open in 2006. He remained one of the top players in the sport for a few more years, winning four Tour events between 2008 and 2010, and another in 2014.
But he had just one Top Ten finish last year, and has missed the 36-hole cut 14 times in his 21 Tour starts this year. He’s ranked 267th in the world. He once was seventh.
Ogilvy tied for 16th here. He played well, and his mood showed it after Sunday’s round. He cordially signed everything fans wanted him to sign and posed for photos with strangers.
“Nice course, nice town,” Ogilvy said. “Just a good tournament. I don’t say that everywhere.”
He had played here just once before, in 2004. He said he’d play here every year if the JDC weren’t normally scheduled the week before the British Open. He likes to play in the United Kingdom the week before the British.
But Ogilvy didn’t qualify for the British this year, or the Masters, or the PGA Championship. He is 39 and seeking a second act for his career before it’s too late.
He needs a very high finish in this week’s Wyndham Championship to make a big climb from 167th in the FedExCup standings. The FedExCup playoffs start with the top 125 players the following week, and will probably be without Ogilvy for the second-straight year.
Which makes Zach Johnson’s career consistency seem all the more impressive. Johnson is 40 and has never had a big dip since he joined the Tour in 2004. He is ranked 22nd in the world, and has a good chance of playing on his fifth U.S. Ryder Cup team this fall.
But this game is hard, and even current elite players have their struggles. Johnson tied for 34th place here after finishing no worse than third here in each of the last five years.
He is 49th in the FedExCup standings. He finished in the top six in those standings in two of the previous three years.
Unless Johnson wins one of the four events in the playoffs, this will be his first season without a victory since 2012.
He did tie for eighth at the U.S. Open, and tied for 12th in the British Open. So it isn’t as if he hasn’t had stretches of excellent play in 2016.
“I would give (his season) about a C, C-plus right now,” Johnson said. “There’s certain aspects that I would give an A for sure, and there’s other aspects I would give a solid D-minus.
“I’m very confident that whatever minor valley I’m in, it will turn around shortly and just through hard work and trust.”
Then there’s Jon Rahm of Spain. He is 21. He graduated from Arizona State in May and turned pro after being low amateur at June’s U.S. Open with a tie for 23rd.
Rahm tied for third in his first Tour event as a pro, the Quicken Loans National. He later tied for second at the Canadian Open, and tied for 14th here Sunday. He did enough in a very short time to earn a Tour playing card for the 2017 season.
“He feels he deserves to be out here and he belongs,” said his agent, Tim Mickelson. “He’s certainly proved that in the last month.”
Mickelson, the brother of golf superstar Phil Mickelson, was Arizona State’s men’s golf coach for five years. He resigned earlier this month to become an agent for Lagardere Sports. Rahm immediately became his first client.
Rahm is the first two-time winner of the Ben Hogan Award, given to the nation’s top college golfer. He may be the next Jordan Spieth. Maybe.
“You can’t predict the future,” Mickelson said. “All you want to do is keep giving yourself an opportunity to play, and he’s given himself the opportunity to play all next year out here and see what he can do.
“But his goal is not just to play out here. His goal is to win.”
Johnson Wagner is a three-time Tour champ. He has had a tough year, but he tied for fifth here to lock up a playoff spot and a Tour card for next year.
“These young guys are so good,” Wagner said. “It’s becoming harder and harder. You play good golf and you just get lapped out here. I’m fired up to keep my job another year.”
Veteran champions like Moore, Ogilvy and Johnson can’t rest. The Jon Rahms just keep coming.
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