The field took the phrase “Moving Day” to heart on Saturday at the 2023 John Deere Classic.
Of the 69 players to make the cut this weekend at TPC Deere Run, 53 players were under par in the third round, with 16 signing for rounds of 5 under or better.
With just 18 holes to play, it’s truly anyone’s tournament as 23 players are within five shots of the lead. Those in the mix include a handful of would-be first-time PGA Tour winners, as well as a small group of rookies and amateurs looking to make a name for themselves.
Get ready for what should be an exciting final round with the five things that we learned from the third round of the 2023 John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run.
Todd leads log-jammed leaderboard
Brendon Todd has consistently and steadily plowed his way around TPC Deere Run this week and rose up the leaderboard each day. With just one round to go, the 37-year-old is 18 holes away from a fourth PGA Tour win.
Todd shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead at 16 under over the three-way traffic jam tied for second of Alex Smalley (62), Denny McCarthy (66) and Adam Schenk (67).
“I think that was the excitement on the putt on the last hole,” said Todd, who made a knee-knocking 12-footer to save par on the 18th. “Kept me bogey-free and kept me in the lead. You always want to be the guy being chased.”
“Anybody who is within three shots of the lead is looking to go as low as they can,” said Todd, who noted a 59 has been shot at TPC Deere Run before, meaning the tournament is still more than up for grabs. “So there’s certainly going to be no defense for me tomorrow … If I have a wedge in my hand, I’m going for it.”
Brutal first bogey of the week
Adam Schenk had been playing perfect golf all week. Really, perfect: 47 holes, zero bogeys … until the par-3 12th on Saturday.
Schenk missed the green short and left and chipped on to leave a testy eight footer to save his par and keep his blemish-free week alive. The putt caught the edge and horseshoed out, giving Schenk his sole bogey of the week. Looking for his first Tour win, the 31-year-old made consecutive birdies on Nos. 16 and 17 to bounce back and sign for a 4-under 67 and stay within a shot of the lead.
Rising star begins return from injury
Okay so we didn’t learn this one from the Deere, but it’s still some pretty big news for fans of the Tour.
Will Zalatoris announced in April that he would be out for the rest of the season after he underwent back surgery following multiple opinions from doctors.
“As much as I hate not being able to play the rest of this season, I am happy that I am already seeing the benefits of the procedure,” Zalatoris wrote at the time. “Playing and living in pain is not fun. I look forward to making a full recovery and seeing everyone in the fall.”
The 26-year-old posted from Wimbledon on Instagram and also told fans he’d start chipping again soon, signaling a return to competition is on the horizon.
In eight starts this season, Zalatoris made six cuts and finished inside the top 25 just twice at the Sentry Tournament of Champions (T-11) and Genesis Invitational (4). Over his last four starts before withdrawing from the Masters, the winner of the 2022 FedEx St. Jude Championship finished T-53 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, 73rd at the Players Championship and T-59 at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
Rookie in contention for second consecutive week
BYU grad Peter Kuest didn’t have PGA Tour status two weeks ago, but after Monday qualifying and then finishing T-4 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic last week, the 25-year-old earned a spot in this week’s John Deere Classic. Kuest needed to finish T-76 or better to earn special temporary membership for the rest of the season, and currently sits solo fifth, just two shots back.
“We came here this week to win a golf tournament. We weren’t worried about locking up special temporary membership,” said Kuest after his round. “We knew if we played well, that would take care of itself, so we were just focused on winning a golf tournament and playing well.”
Non-PGA Tour members can accept just seven sponsor exemptions in a single season, but as a special temporary member, Kuest can now accept unlimited exemptions through the remainder of the 2023 calendar, including the fall events, as he looks to play his way to a full-member card.
What happens when six PGA Tour players share a house for tournament week?
It’s simple: Cards are played, bets are made, trash is talked and at the end of the week, one player wins the tournament.
At least that’s how it went at last year’s John Deere Classic, when eventual winner J.T. Poston passed on the hotel and stayed in a large house with Patton Kizzire, Greyson Sigg, Denny McCarthy, Brendon Todd and Ben Kohles. The majority of the gang are running it back this year, with Poston, Kizzire, Sigg and McCarthy all returning alongside new additions Chris Kirk and Sepp Straka.
Did Todd, the 18-hole leader, get kicked out for this year? Not quite.
“My family came Tuesday to Thursday, so it was fun to spend some time with them. Didn’t want to put them through the debauchery of the house, so we got a hotel in Moline,” he explained. “It’s been a great week so far, and it’s pretty cool how well that house is playing.”
Five of the six players are within the top five – Kizzire missed the cut – and three are in the top 10 with McCarthy T-2 and Kirk and Poston both T-6. If history repeats itself, the trophy will be returning to the PGA Tour fraternity house for a second straight year.
Story originally appeared on GolfWeek