Friday Recap: John Deere Classic

John Deere Classic Correspondent

SILVIS, Ill. – Wesley Bryan is making the most of his PGA Tour debut.

Appearing at the John Deere Classic after winning three times on the Tour this season, an achievement that earned him an automatic promotion to the PGA Tour, Bryan completed a first-round 66 and added a second-round 64 Friday and is the leader in the clubhouse at 12 under par.

More than half the field still has to complete their second rounds Saturday morning at TPC Deere Run, with play resuming at 7 a.m. After the cut, the survivors will be repaired and the third round will start Saturday afternoon.

Of the players who have finished two rounds, Bryan has a one-shot lead over Steve Marino (66-65). Tom Gillis, a runner-up to Jordan Spieth in a playoff last year, is at 132 after a 64-68 start.

Gillis, 48, has had a hard time dealing with his playoff loss to Spieth.

“I don’t think I’ve recovered,” said Gillis, winless in 187 career PGA Tour events. “It bothered me all year. I think it will always bother me. When you’re a journeyman player and you don’t get a lot of chances like that, it stings when you get that close.”

Last year’s runner-up finish was the second of Gillis’ career. He was also a runner-up at the 2012 Honda Classic. Gillis, in his 26th year as a professional, has played golf in 28 countries. He still chases the holy grail, a PGA Tour victory. That’s why last year hurt so much.

“That’s all I wanted, was one of them,” Gillis said. “Maybe we’ll get another shot this weekend. It’s a long way to go. What stung is that a lot has to happen right (to get in this position). When you get that close, you’d like to close the deal.”

Gillis is playing in just his second PGA Tour event since the second week of June, and he’s made just four cuts all season.

“It’s not like I came here saying I was going to make amends for (last year), because I haven’t shown any form since then to be honest with you,” Gillis said. “I didn’t have a lot of expectations. But for some reason when I get here, I’m quiet in the mind. My mind is clear. I can see everything I want to do. Everything sets up well.”

Bryan said his success on the Tour has given him winning experience that should carry over to the PGA Tour.

“Just knowing that I’ve been in contention and been able to hit the shots when I needed to on that level,” Bryan said. “There’s a lot of really good players there and it’s just as hard to win a golf tournament out there as it is here, I presume.”
On Sunday, Bryan was in Overland Park, Kan., winning the Digital Ally Open. Five days later, he’s leading a PGA Tour event.

“The way I played last week I felt like it was good enough to be in contention  anywhere I was going to be playing,” Bryan said. “I’ve been driving it really well. I’ve been hitting my irons really well and rolling it really well. Most of the time, when you have all three of those things clicking, it’s usually going to correlate on any golf course.”

Marino, 36, is also looking for his first PGA Tour title. His fifth runner-up finish came at this season’s Puerto Rico Open, where he lost in a playoff to Tony Finau. In the seven events since he tied for 12th at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Marino has missed three cuts and finished no higher than a tie for 35th.

“I finally feel like my game is starting to come around,” Marino said. “I’ve struggled all year.”

The secret to Marino’s play Friday? Two breakfasts. The first came in the wee hours at the TPC Deere Run Clubhouse, before Marino started play. But when the 7:20 a.m. resumption of play was delayed until noon, Marino went back to his hotel, had a nap, ate a second breakfast and returned to TPC Deere Run.

“That’s probably why I played well, because I never, ever had a negative thought about what was going on,” Marino said. “I just kind of rolled with it and came out here ready to play.”

One of the day’s biggest stories was former Illinois star Charlie Danielson, playing here on a sponsor’s exemption. 

When play was suspended by darkness Thursday evening, Danielson was in a stormy mood. He had double-bogeyed the par-3 7th and bogeyed the par-4 8th holes right before play stopped. 

“Just two bad swings,” Danielson said.

But Friday was a new day, and Danielson used that perspective to his advantage. It was a perspective drilled into his head by his former coach at Illinois, Mike Small.
“I could hear his voice in the back of my head,” Danielson said.

Danielson shot a 5-under 31 the back nine to complete his first-round 67 Friday morning, then returned to the back nine to start his second round and shot a 4-under-par 32. 

But history repeated itself late Friday. Danielson bogeyed No. 7 and had a double bogey at No. 8 right before play was suspended for the day. Danielson has to play one hole Saturday to compete his second round. He is 5 under par for the tournament.


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