Interesting trend of winners at John Deere Classic

How many people have won their first title at the John Deere Classic?
Davis Thompson - 2024 John Deere Classic
Davis Thompson - 2024 John Deere Classic / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

The John Deere Classic has come to an end, and Davis Thompson cruised to his first PGA Tour victory of his career. Thompson took home a cool $1.44 million after finishing with a tournament record 28-under par, four shots better than three players tied for second at 24-under.

As I mentioned, Thompson is a first-time winner on tour, so he deserves a huge congratulations. Usually, I find myself cheering for the bigger names on tour, but there’s something very satisfying about seeing someone win on tour for the first time. And if you’re someone that's followed the John Deere closely, this is nothing new for you.

John Deere Classic produces most first-time winners on PGA Tour

Thompson’s victory makes him the 24th player on the PGA Tour since 1970 to win their first tournament at the John Deere Classic. Doing the math, that means almost half of the John Deere winners are first-time winners in that timeframe.

In my opinion that is just absolutely wild. We see first-time winners on tour every season, but why does it always seem to happen at the John Deere? What makes this event so special that causes new winners to take home the title?

Two reasons stand out to me.

Lack of big names

The biggest reason why first-time winners take home this title so often is because of the lack of “big names” in the field. I’m talking the Scottie Schefflers and Rory McIlroys of the world.

For many years, this tournament fell the week before the British Open, so typically any player playing in that event would head overseas to play the Scottish Open instead of the John Deere. But now, even with the John Deere two weeks before the Open, we still have a pretty tame field. That likely has to do with scheduling as well this year as the top players just played three weeks in a row (Memorial, US Open, Travelers). So they are opting to take a two-week break before heading over to the Scottish Open to prep for the British Open.

This oddity in scheduling doesn’t impact newcomers or less established players as much because they need to play as much as they can to keep their tour status. So that causes more players with zero wins to enter the John Deere, which increases the chances of one of them winning.

Easier Golf Course

The other reason I think we see so many first-time winners at the John Deere Classic is because of the relative ease of the course. Whenever golf courses are difficult, it tends to weed out the average professional golfers, leaving the best of the best to battle it out to try and win on tour again. But when the course is easier, it essentially levels the playing field allowing almost anyone to play well and win.

So when you couple an easier course (for pro standards) with a weaker field, you naturally will get more first-time winners than normal.

This isn’t meant to take anything away from Thompson or any other previous winner of the John Deere, it’s still insanely hard to win on tour. But this is just one of those events that favors the lesser-known names, which in my opinion isn’t a bad thing.