MOLINE, Illinois Jonathan Byrd will defend his title at the 2008 John Deere Classic against an enhanced field of players, some of whom have been attracted by the tournaments offer of a private charter flight direct to the British Open.
Five major champions have committed so far, including local heroes Zach Johnson and Todd Hamilton � winners of the Masters and British Open, respectively � as well as Tom Lehman (British Open), Shaun Micheel (PGA Championship), and Rich Beem (PGA Championship).
"We're thrilled with the way the 2008 field is shaping up," said John Deere Classic tournament director Clair Peterson. "We are very pleased that we already have commitments from five major champions, Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup team members, a number of recent Tour winners, and several top young players. We are looking forward to another great tournament that we are confident that we will help raise millions of dollars for 600 local charities."
The tournament is set for July 10-13 at the Tournament Players Club Deere Run in Silvis, Ill.
Also expected to play in the 38th annual Quad Cities-based PGA Tour event are Presidents Cup and/or Ryder Cup team members Woody Austin, Tim Clark, Lucas Glover, Jerry Kelly, and Kenny Perry. Johnson and Lehman also played on the national teams, with Lehman captaining the U.S. Ryder Cup team in 2006.
2008 PGA Tour winners Sean O'Hair (Pods Championship in Tampa Bay), J.B. Holmes (FBR Open in Phoenix), D.J. Trahan (Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in Palm Springs), and Johnson Wagner (Shell Houston Open) have indicated they will compete this year as has 2007 winner Boo Weekley (Verizon Heritage). In addition, up-and-comers Bubba Watson, Jason Gore, and Pat Perez figure to join the fray.
Former John Deere Classic champions J.L. Lewis (1999), J.P. Hayes (2002), Mark Hensby (2004), and John Senden (2006) will join O'Hair, the 2005 champion.
The John Deere Classic for the first time is offering players in its field the opportunity to fly direct to the British Open, which follows immediately on the Tour schedule. The 100-seat, all-first class, 767 charter jet will leave Quad City International Airport shortly after the conclusion of the tournament. The flight will land in Manchester, England, where ground transportation will take the players and their caddies straight to Royal Birkdale in Lancashire, site of the 2008 Open Championship. The jet is the same charter used by the Dallas Mavericks during the NBA season. The tournament has requested a $1,000 per seat donation to its Birdies for Charity Bonus Fund.
"A number of players have indicated the jet was a factor in their decision to play in the John Deere Classic this year," Peterson said. "We thought that chartering the jet would make the John Deere Classic a more attractive event for players and we are pleased a number of them are taking advantage of it."
This year, through April 13, Byrd, 30, made the cut in seven of 10 events and has finished in the top 25 four times.
As has been the case since 2004, the highest finisher in the John Deere Classic who is not otherwise qualified for the British Open will receive an exemption into the championship. Byrd, O'Hair, and Senden, all have taken advantage of the exemption to play in their first Open Championships and all three made the cut.
The PGA Tour began its run in the Quad Cities in 1971. John Deere, whose world headquarters is located in Moline, Ill., assumed title sponsorship of the tournament in 1998. The tournament moved to TPC Deere Run in 2000.
Information about tickets and corporate hospitality is available at http://www.johndeereclassic.com/ or by calling toll free 1-800-336-4655.
The John Deere Classic, which includes Birdies for Charity, is a 501(C)3 non-profit organization located in the John Deere Classic tournament offices at 15623 Coaltown Road, East Moline, Illinois. Since its founding in1971, the tournament has helped raise $24.6 million for charity.