Brian Harman last year became the 20th first-time winner of the 44-year-old John Deere Classic, defeating Zach Johnson by one stroke. It won’t be long now until the 5-foot 7-inch, 150-pound lefthander from Georgia returns to defend his title, July 6-12, at TPC Deere Run.
Harman will be joined by other past champions who are both well-known and much-beloved in the Quad Cities: among them, Johnson, the 2012 champion; Steve Stricker, who three-peated from 2009-11, and reigning Masters and U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth, who won his first PGA TOUR event here in 2013.
“We always look forward to welcoming back our defending champions, but the first-time winners are in a special category,” said John Deere Classic tournament director Clair Peterson. “Winning your first PGA TOUR event is a monumental right-of-passage for every professional golfer. When they win here, they get into the Open Championship, qualify for the following year’s Masters, usually get into the PGA Championship. Most importantly from a career standpoint, they earn the right to play almost any PGA TOUR event they choose for the next two years. It’s a big deal in many ways – not to mention the first-place check.”
One of those past champs who will be back is 2005 John Deere Classic winner Sean O’Hair, who won Rookie of the Year honors in ’05 thanks to his victory. O’Hair, now 32, recently lost to Spieth in a playoff at the Valspar Championship and posted three top-20 finishes since then.
With his victory last year, Harman earned the final spot in the Open Championship, where he finished a respectable T-26 at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s, and later in the summer finished T-40 at the PGA Championship.
This year, he has bookended a handful of top 25 finishes around a series of five straight missed cuts, including at the Masters in his home state. Recently, he seems to have found his game, finishing T-8 at The Players and T-10 at Colonial’s Crowne Plaza Invitational.
Harman’s pedigree goes back to his youth in Savannah. He won the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2003 and was a member of two victorious Walker Cup teams in 2005, at age 18, and 2009. As a Bulldog, he was a three-time Second Team All American. After turning pro in 2009, he played two years on the eGolf Tour, where he recorded one victory and seven top-three finishes before earning a spot on the PGA TOUR by graduating from PGA TOUR qualifying school.