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2024 John Deere Classic scores, takeaways: C.T. Pan, Aaron Rai share Round 2 lead as Jordan Spieth makes cut



Following his historic 59 on Thursday, Hayden Springer could not back it up with anything low on Friday in the second round. As a result, the leaderboard at the John Deere Classic is bunched up with 26 golfers between 10 and 14 under.

The leaders are C.T. Pan and Aaron Rai, both of whom shot 8-under 63s on Friday, but their co-lead will almost certainly not exist by the time that duo tees off on Saturday afternoon. On a course where the scoring average each day has been right or right under 70, scores will continue to plummet, and somebody will get hot and shoot 61 or 62 to get in the mix.

You need to look no further than what Sepp Straka did a year ago when he won this event. Straka shot 73 (!!) on Thursday before shooting 63-65-62 to get to 21 under and win by two over Brendon Todd and Alex Smalley. Somebody could do something similar over the next two days at TPC Deere Run.

Let’s take a look at those two leaders, though, and the best candidates among the chasers to pull off what Straka did a year ago.

The leaders

T1. C.T. Pan, Aaron Rai (-14)

For the second week in a row, Rai co-leads after 36. This week, he’s doing it mostly with the putter, which is mildly concerning. However, he’s been on such a great run of play — six consecutive made cuts and three straight top 20s, including the U.S. Open — that I do expect this to continue into the weekend.

Rai was unable to get the job done last Sunday in Detroit as Cameron Davis went on to win, but that might be a good thing. Tai has the game going, and he didn’t expend the emotional energy that some of the other players who were at the very top of that leaderboard probably did.

“I think overall, from Sunday, from the whole of last week, there were so many more positives than negatives,” said Rai, who shot a disappointing 72 on Sunday. “With the negatives there are always a few lessons in there, which is great. We knew we were playing some good golf.

“It’s good to experience [being in contention],” Rai added. “I think there is always a fine balance between trying to want it a little bit too much to a point where it’s easy to get in the way of yourself and in the way of performance. But I think experiencing it definitely just gives confidence, builds another layer to the game, builds another layer to the mental side as well.

“So I think those are the biggest positives to take from an experience like that. Whether that translates into this week or in it the future, ultimately makes you a better player.”

Other contenders

3. Harry Hall (-13)
T4. Eric Cole, Davis Thompson, Denny McCarthy, Luke Clanton, Sungjae Im

Im and Clanton are probably the most interesting two in this group. The former is surging after a slow start to the year. Im has three top nines in his last four starts and four in his last six. He’s probably the most experienced good player at the top of this board, and he’s hitting the ball as well as anyone in this field this week. In fact, he’s been the worst putter of anyone currently in the top nine.

Clanton is a stud from Florida State who finished T2 in the individual portion of the NCAA Championship earlier this year and was part of a Seminoles team that took second behind Auburn in the team final. He brings a top-10 finish last week at the Rocket Mortage Classic into this week’s John Deere and aims to become just the second amateur in the last 33 years to win a PGA Tour event (although the second of 2024).

“I don’t want to sound cocky or boastful at all, but we’ve trained to what we’re doing here,” Clanton said. “Honestly, college golf is tough. It prepares us for these kind of moments and these kind of golf courses, and now that I’m in contention for the second week in a row, it’s pretty sweet.

“I know where I’m at and what to do now. I had a lot of learning last week and I’m excited.”

Jordan Spieth makes the cut

How the mighty have fallen when, instead of talking about contending to win the event, we’re sweating whether Spieth is even going to make the cut (he did by two shots). That’s where Spieth — who does not have a top 10 since the Texas Open in April — finds himself, though. I still believe he’s magic at the Open Championship, so even if he doesn’t get into the mix over the next 36 holes, he can still potentially find something for The Open at Royal Troon in two weeks. That makes these next two rounds important no matter the outcome.

2024 John Deere Classic update odds, picks

  • Aaron Rai: 18/5
  • Sungjae Im: 7-1
  • Davis Thompson: 9-1
  • Denny McCarthy: 10-1
  • C.T. Pan: 10-1
  • Luke Clanton: 14-1
  • Eric Cole: 14-1

While I do trust Rai to stay in contention, I don’t love any of these numbers. Not with the scores a player can shoot at this course. Not with how many golfers are in contention. I’d rather go further down the board to Michael Thorbjornsen (35-1) or Keith Mitchell (35-1) and try to find somebody who could go shoot 62 on Saturday to take the lead. Thorbjornsen is 11 under and Mitchell is 10 under, and they shot a combined 15 under (!) in the second round on Friday.





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