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But come Sunday night, if Stricker is not the champion, then who? Brendon de Jonge established himself as the leading champion-in-waiting on Saturday. De Jonge shot a 8-under 63 to reach 18 under, two shots back of Stricker at TPC Deere Run.
“I almost expect it around here,” de Jonge said of Stricker’s play. “Obviously he knows how to play this golf course very, very well. He’s very comfortable around it. But no, it’s nice. I do have a chance, which is great.”
Regardless of winning, De Jonge could use a good finish. Other than a fifth-place finish at the Transitions Championship, de Jonge has struggled.
In February, de Jonge became a new father to a baby boy, so he can be cut some slack. Now July, it is go-time for those on the cusp of making the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
Currently, de Jonge sits at No. 64, which would currently get him to the third round, or the BMW Championship. Even a second-place finish at the John Deere Classic would vault him to No. 32, just outside the No. 30 mark to make The Tour Championship.
Maybe of more import to de Jonge, of Zimbabwe, is that the Open Championship will award a final starting spot to a player in the John Deere Classic’s top five who is not otherwise exempt. De Jonge is not.
To finish on a positive note on Sunday, de Jonge will draw upon lessons learned earlier this year at the Transitions Championship.
“Just trying to slow down,” said de Jonge, who finished at the John Deere Classic last year. “Do things at my own speed. I think when I get under the gun I start going a little bit quick. Just kind of slow down and take an extra deep breath every now and then.”
A strong Sunday showing would also validate de Jonge’s uptick.
“I played nicely at the beginning of the season and managed to turn a lot of good finishes into top 20s, and then I’ve actually struggled the last couple months, but finally starting to feel a little bit better again,” he said.
A win would, no doubt, make him feel much better.
Stuart Hall is editor of the Golf Press Association.