SILVIS – Zach Johnson, the No. 2 all-time money winner at the John Deere Classic, sat the front table in the TPC Deere Run Media Center on Tuesday morning, but the center of attention, at least for me, was that 17 inches tall, 9 inches wide statue of gold in the center of the table.
After all, it is not every day that you see THE Ryder Cup trophy within arm’s reach in the Quad-Cities.
Each member of the United States’ Ryder Cup winning team gets two weeks to do with the trophy what they may. Johnson already had targeted his time – the weeks that surround his own tournament in Cedar Rapids and this week with the John Deere Classic.
“I requested to have it for two pretty important times,” he said. “It made its way to my hometown, to my home club, and that’s pretty special; not too sure that will happen any time soon. … You never know.
“And obviously this week, too. I guess I kind of take a small piece of ownership in this event, too, so why not? So that’s the beauty of it.”
Those Johnson has the trophy here, he designed JDC tournament director Clair Peterson as his “trophy caddy.” The true beauty of that is that Peterson, and Johnson, will be John Deere Classic fans a chance to see the Ryder Cup up close.
“It will be at Deere & Co. tonight (Tuesday) and Friday night for a company function,” said Peterson, “and it will be at our Family Fun Zone on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It will be on a pedestal screwed into a case with a plexiglass top.”
Given the aftermath of the Johnson press conference, that might be one of the hottest of spots for fans during tournament week. Just about every reporter had his or her photo taken with it, as did all of the ladies that work the front desk at the Media Center. Peterson, too, had a photo-opp turn. He, though, came with a white glove, to handle the polished piece.
After all of those reporters had asked Johnson about John Deere Classic stuff, I quickly went to the front table, inches away from the Ryder Cup, to ask him the most important question to me – Where on that trophy does it show his United States team win?
Johnson spun the trophy one and a half time, and said, “Right there, in the middle at the bottom.” And, oh how special it was to see, right there, “2016, WON BY USA 17 Matches to 11 Matches,” fittingly nothing on either side, so it stood out even more.
Bob Denney, PGA historian, noted that the Ryder Cup being here at TPC Deere Run is even more significant.
“This is the first time this has been done in the U.S., each golfer getting the chance to have it for a period of time,” Denney said. “That would make this golf’s version of the Stanley Cup.”
Only an eighth the size.
“When Wales won it” in 2010, Denney noted, “it went everywhere in Wales, every school, every community. I think more people in that country saw it than any Ryder Cup previously.”
Johnson is the fourth on the U.S. team to get the Cup, following Jimmy Walker, Davis Love III and Brand Snedeker. From Johnson’s hands, it goes to Patrick Reed when they meet at the British Open.
“Snedeker had the most fun with it,” Denney said. “He took it a Predators game, took it to a baseball game.”
Outside of allowing JDC fans and his own tournament’s fans the chance to enjoy it, Johnson did not disclose what other kind of “fun” he had with his Ryder Cup turn.
Well, except for this:
“It actually makes a great ball marker, too,” he chuckled. “Found that out. It’s round on the bottom.”
Just the mental image of Zach Johnson marking his putt on the green with the Ryder Cup, in itself, is priceless.