SILVIS — When it comes to finding the right guys to receive sponsor exemptions into the local PGA Tour field, John Deere Classic officials have a simple formula — find good young golfers and good people who will represent the tournament well.

JDC tournament director Clair Peterson aced this year's group of youngsters — Matthew Wolff, Colin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland and Justin Suh — to receive the tournament's first four special invites into the field. That was nowhere more evident than on Monday.

It is common protocol for sponsor exemptions to do what they can to help the tournament — not only this year, but hopefully in year's to come when they become the top players in the game. That usually includes playing in the Monday Pro-Am that is geared for title sponsor Deere & Co. to cater to business associates.

True to his word, Wolff was part of Monday's event at TPC Deere Run.

It didn't matter that he was less than 24 hours from his first PGA Tour victory.

It didn't matter that he arrived in the Quad-Cities at 2 a.m. Monday after driving from Blaine, Minn., after winning the 3M Open on Sunday.

It didn't matter that he had about four hours sleep before heading to TPC Deere Run and was on the range at 10:30.

“It was a whirlwind of emotions,” said the 20-year-old Wolff. “After I won, I wasn't really thinking of the Monday pro-am. I was staying in the present like I did all day Sunday the entire week. After I won, I never even thought about dropping out of it.”

Neither did Morikawa, Hovland or Suh. They also played the weekend at TPC Twin Cities with Morikawa tying 2017 JDC winner Bryson DeChamabeau for second behind his great frined. Hovland finished T13 and Suh tied for 58th.

All were playing Monday after a long drive and short nights.

It says a lot about the four. It also shows that golf is in pretty good hands moving forward with guys of that character to live up to their commitments.

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“When I saw him this morning and said thank you to him, he said 'of course, I made the commitment and I was going to be here,'” said Peterson. “He couldn't have been more accommodating.”

Even after a long pro-am round when he was just about the last off the course, Wolff was still accommodating.

But also honest.

“I'm a little tired, but I had a great time out there” said Wolff. “It's a job. Sometimes you're going to be tired. I'll get some sleep tomorrow and be refreshed for the weekend.”

Having him or any of the other young guns in contention would be great for the tourney that has suffered a little bit from the perception of a weaker field that lacks marquee names.

But these guys will be those marquee names and they are here.

“People are bemoaning who is not here,” said Peterson. “Let's celebrate the guys who are here. There's a lot to celebrate. Here's a young man in his third pro start wins a PGA Tour event. And the guy that he beats has been in one more Tour event than him and both are in our field. It's exciting.”

Yes, it is.

These youngsters are worth watching. And chances are good that one of them could be the 23rd player to make the JDC his first tournament victory.

Whether that's this week will be seen in a few days. If it does play out that way, it will be great for the tournament to have one of these standout young men representing the Quad-Cities.

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Tom Johnston can be reached at tjohnston@qconline.com


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