Thursday was nothing short of a total scoring-fest at the John Deere Classic with Sebastian Munoz and Chesson Hadley setting a torrid pace with eight-under par 63s.
The TPC Deere Run was giving up birdies left and right as a total of 74 players shot two-under par 69 or better.
Munoz had a so-so round going until he went on a run of five straight birdies to finish his day’s work. “I just go blank, to be honest,” Munoz said. “It’s funny because when I make a lot of birdies, I usually play a little more safe and pick my spots. I have like 10- 12-footers and they start to drop. That’s what I did today. And that’s where we’re at.”
Hadley finished his round on the front nine. He didn’t have the run Munoz had but he had back-to-back birdies three times and made three birdie putts from the 25-foot range.
Munoz and Hadley were only a shot in front of a trio of golfers who got in with seven-under par 64s — Chez Reavie, Camilo Villegas and Hank Lebioda.
Lebioda, who finished one shot out of the playoff last week in the Rocket Mortgage Classic, was poised to join the leaders. He was seven-under through 12 holes and tied the lead with a tee shot on the 213-yard seventh hole that stopped 20 inches from the cup. But he gave that one back with a bogey at the ninth to finish his day.
Steve Stricker, a three-time winner of the Deere Classic and huge supporter of the event over the years, skipped the Senior U.S. Open to play this week. He finished with a one-under par round of 70 and will have to play better on Friday to make the 36-hole cut, which could be as low as four-under par.
There’s also a bonus on the line come Sunday. The leading player from among the top five at the end of the week earns a trip to the Open Championship if he’s not already exempt. Munoz is in the field next week at Royal St. George’s. Hadley is not.
Cam Davis, a playoff winner in Detroit last week, had to turn down his spot in the Open. Kevin Na decided to withdraw because of travel requirements in place for family members, and next on the reserve list was Davis.
Davis’ issue is that he can’t travel overseas. He was married last September, lives with his American-born wife in Seattle and decided to start the process of getting a green card for ease of travel overseas and going home to Australia. He’s at the stage now where he can’t go overseas until he gets a temporary card.