SILVIS, Ill. – Patrick Rodgers played The Brickyard Crossing last Sunday with some high school buddies and shot a course-record 62. Mark Whipple, a rising freshman at Indiana this fall, said it was a steady round of 10 birdies and no bogeys. On the 18th, Rodgers told his friends that he had a better appreciation of how hard it is to shoot 59.
On Sunday, Rodgers will leave the John Deere Classic with a better appreciation of how hard it is to win a PGA Tour event – no matter what transpires.
The 20-year-old amateur from Avon, Ind., briefly saw his name atop the leaderboard at the Deere on Saturday before fan favorite Zach Johnson eagled the second hole. Rodgers shot 30 on the front side at TPC Deere Run and then sputtered down the stretch, parring the par-5 17th and bogeying the 18th from a fairway bunker to shoot 6-under 65.
Still, it was a terrific showing for the young Cardinal bomber, who before this week had yet to make the cut in a professional event. Rodgers had played in two PGA Tour events (including last year’s Deere) and two Web.com tournaments coming into this week. He heads into Sunday tied for 12th at 12 under par, seven strokes behind leader Daniel Summerhays.
“Kind of got a mental hurdle off my back yesterday,” said Rodgers, “so today was pressure free.”
Rodgers, of course, isn’t the only fresh face on the board. Jordan Spieth, a 19-year-old pro who was a 2011 Walker Cup teammate and foursomes partner of Rodgers’, is at 13 under.
Spieth gets razzed by fellow Tour players for not being old enough to gamble at Jumer’s, the casino/hotel he’s staying at in nearby Rock Island, Ill. As for his game, there’s nothing much anyone can say. He plays like someone twice his age.
Spieth has played in 15 events in 2013, amassing five top-10 finishes and $1.2 million. A victory here at the Deere would put him into the Open Championship as well as the FedEx Cup Playoffs. To get into the PGA Championship, Spieth would need to finish in the top 70 of the PGA Championship points list, which runs through the RBC Canadian Open. He’s currently 75th. Spieth concedes he has been fortunate to play well “at the perfect time.”
“My goals aren’t to just get out here and compete and just be a top-100 player, 100 on the money list,” Spieth said. “My goals are to become the best player in the world, and honestly I still have a very, very long way to go there.”
Charlie Rodgers said his son looks at the play of a contemporary such as Spieth and finds it motivating, but won’t make a decision purely on the good fortune of his peers. Or one good week at the Deere, for that matter.
“He’s a very analytical kid,” Charlie Rodgers said. Adding that the decision to turn pro, whenever that might happen, won’t be based on emotions.
With the Rodgers’ Indiana home located four hours away, roughly 30 friends and family are making camp this week at a nearby Radisson. The Rodgers family owns several Subway shops in the Indianapolis area and is involved in commercial real estate.
Charlie likes to emphasize that everything is a process. He believes the culture of Stanford has been good for his Midwestern boy, not to mention being exposed to West Coast courses. He’d like to see his son play four years of college golf, but said he’d support Patrick should he decide to turn pro early. The plan right now, Charlie said, is to return to Stanford. Patrick is scheduled to play the Porter Cup, Western Amateur, U.S. Amateur, and, if all goes as planned, the Walker Cup.
“Everybody we talk to says they really enjoyed their amateur years,” Charlie said.
Raised on a diet of Subway, Patrick Rodgers might attribute his supreme length to the number of Italian subs he has consumed over the years. The 6-foot-2-inch rising junior ranks second this week in driving distance, at 328 yards. He stands fifth in greens in regulation.
On Tuesday, Rodgers played a practice round with defending champion Zach Johnson and came away impressed with Johnson’s overall control – ball flight and distance, in particular.
The best amateur performance at the John Deere came from Philip Francis in 2008. Francis finished tied for 34th.
“I feel like each time I play out here I gain more experience,” Rodgers said. “I get more and more comfortable.”
Next comes one more notch in the pro belt: Rodgers’ first PGA Tour Sunday.