Davis Thompson notches first PGA Tour win at John Deere Classic, earns Open Championship berth

Davis Thompson stepped onto the first tee box at TPC Deere Run on Sunday with a two-shot lead, chasing his maiden PGA Tour victory and a spot in the Open Championship. Within minutes he proved exactly why he belonged there and how he ended the final round by raising the John Deer Classic trophy and claiming an invitation to Royal Troon.

Thompson won at 28-under for the tournament after a final-round 64 (-7).

He stared down his safely positioned 45-foot birdie putt on the first hole, knowing that more opportunities would come — especially on the scoreable setup in Illinois, which had already produced a course-record-tying 59 from Hayden Springer on Thursday.

But Thompson didn’t need to wait. He drained his long-range lag putt and proceeded to make five more birdies on his front nine. He sunk 120 feet of putts to post a 6-under 29 on the front. At the turn, Thompson had reached 27 under par for the tournament — matching the John Deere Classic’s 72-hole scoring record with nine holes left to play. His front-nine score was the lowest in a final round by a 54-hole leader since Rory McIlroy at the 2022 RBC Canadian Open.

Thompson’s back nine wasn’t quite as smooth, but it was all he needed to secure his first win on tour. He made two more birdies and one bogey, separating himself with a four-shot lead while PGA Tour rookie Michael Thorbjornsen, amateur Luke Clanton, Carson Young and C.T. Pan battled it out for runner-up. The chasers were also competing for the second and final Open Championship spot up for grabs at the tournament as part of the Open Championship Qualifying Series. Thompson and Pan (-24) ultimately earned the two exemptions to the final major championship of the 2024 season.

“When that putt finally went in, it was a big sigh of relief,” Thompson said, getting emotional on the 18th green when the win became official.

“Qualifying for the Open was just an added incentive into this,” he continued. “The goal is to win the golf tournament, but I got off to a great start and was able to finish it off.”

This week in the Quad Cities, Thompson extended a running tournament superstition: the “Trophy House.” For three consecutive years, the player who has won the John Deere Classic has stayed in the same rental home. The annual shared house is organized by PGA Tour player Chris Kirk, and the ongoing tradition is that if a player in residence wins the tournament, they pay for the house. The first year it was J.T. Poston, then Sepp Straka, and now, Thompson.

“I think I have to pay for the whole house now, which is unfortunate, but I’ll gladly write the check for that,” Thompson said.

Thompson was busy holing unfathomable putts Sunday but showed little emotion throughout the round. His mental coach, Dr. Mo Pickens, described the Georgia product as a “quietly confident” competitor. During his collegiate years as a Bulldog, Thompson earned All-American honors in his final two years on top of his four individual titles, including at NCAA Regionals in 2019 and 2021. He became the No. 1 amateur in the world in November 2020 and again in March 2021.

Thompson turned professional after graduating from Georgia that spring, and he quickly earned his 2022-2023 PGA Tour card after a successful run on the Korn Ferry Tour.

The 6-foot-4 Atlanta native immediately made his name known when he went shot for shot with Jon Rahm at The American Express in La Quinta in January 2023, nearly winning his first PGA Tour event in his seventh start as a rookie. That event marked the last time Thompson held a 54-hole lead on tour. Since making his PGA Tour debut, Thompson has six top-10 finishes, including a T9 finish at the U.S. Open and a T2 at last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic.

“Everybody is hungry,” the 25-year-old Thompson said Saturday. “That’s what makes it difficult out here. There are a lot of losers every week out here. You can have great weeks and finish top 10. At the end of the day, your goal is to win the golf tournament.”

While Thompson was on his way to victory, Clanton was fighting for a spot in the PGA Tour’s record books. Clanton, a rising junior at Florida State, looked to finish in the top 10 at TPC Deere Run to become the first amateur to post back-to-back top-10s since 1958. At last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, Clanton parlayed a sponsor’s exemption into a T10 finish with a tournament total of 14-under.

On Sunday at the John Deere, Clanton birdied four of his final five holes to post a final-round 63. He skipped up the leaderboard to confidently match a record that has stood for nearly 70 years.

(Photo: Joseph Cress / USA Today)

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