If you follow pro golf, you may want to take notice of whomever it is the John Deere Classic gives sponsor’s exemptions to for this July’s tournament in the Quad Cities.
In 2012, exemptions went to Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth. Perhaps you’ve heard of them. Reed won the Masters Sunday. Spieth gave it a great try with a final-round 64 before finishing third, three years after he won the tourney.
Spieth was an 18-year-old University of Texas student when he got the ‘12 exemption. He tied for 58th in the JDC. Reed was a fledgling pro without a PGA Tour card. He missed the 36-hole cut.
The following year, Spieth was a new pro who got another exemption from the JDC. He won the tourney in a playoff over Cedar Rapids native Zach Johnson and David Hearn to become the youngest Tour event winner since 1931. He won the tourney again in 2015, the most-recent time he has played it.
Reed returned to the Deere in 2013 and shot a second-round 63 to tie Johnson and Lucas Glover for the 36-hole lead. Reed, then a Tour rookie, eventually tied for seventh. His first Tour win came the next month in the Wyndham Championship when he won a sudden-death playoff over ... Spieth.
Reed’s caddie at the time was his wife, Justine. I remember her talking to reporters in the JDC’s media center while her husband was in the interview room after that second round. More of us were interested in her story than his.
Someone else who got a JDC exemption in 2013 was Justin Thomas. He missed the cut, but things have gotten a little better for him since. He won the PGA Championship last year (Reed tied for second) and is the No. 2-ranked player in the world, one spot ahead of Spieth.
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Reed, Spieth and Johnson were teammates on the U.S.’ 2016 Ryder Cup team that posted the Americans’ first win since 2008.
Johnson got JDC exemptions in 2002 and 2003. Another player who went on to win the Masters and British Open (and 14 majors total) got a JDC sponsor’s exemption. That was Tiger Woods, in 1996.