Two weeks before the PGA Tour is set to resume its schedule, John Deere Classic officials decided Thursday to cancel what would have been the fifth tournament back.
Tournament director Clair Peterson said there were too many obstacles to overcome involving too many risks from the COVID-19 pandemic, and that it made financial sense in the long run to not hold the tournament.
The John Deere would have been July 9-12 in Silvis, Illinois, the fifth PGA Tour stop under the revised schedule. The tour is not allowing spectators for at least a month, meaning the Deere could have been the first tournament that allowed fans.
However, Peterson noted an Illinois mandate that restricts gatherings to 50 people through the summer, and other issues at TPC Deere Run such as the size of the clubhouse and getting people from parking lots through the gates.
“Any version — an event with fans, without fans, something in between — we’re going to lose money,” he said. “Or do we want to take the long view of this and ensure long-term security.”
The PGA Tour now has had 11 tournaments on its schedule with total prize money of just under $92 million canceled.
This would have been the 50th anniversary of John Deere Classic.
The tournament began in 1971 — won by Deane Beman, who later became PGA Tour commissioner — and got a huge boost in the community when Tiger Woods played as a 20-year-old who had just turned pro. John Deere stepped in as title sponsor in 1999, and it has thrived in recent years as the final stop before the British Open.
Peterson said the John Deere Co. supported the decision.
“It wasn’t their vote that made the final decision,” he said. “They had a concern about all the risks involved.”
While calling it a “sad day” — the tournament produced books celebrating its 50th year — Peterson said its “Birdies for Charities” program is not tied exclusively to the event because it involves flat donations. It raised $13.8 million last year for more than 500 local charities, and Peterson said he expects about $10 million to be donated this year.
The tournament had not begun to build out the infrastructure for the tournament, with or without fans. Peterson said even when the tour announced a restart on June 11-14 at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, he had his doubts about fans.
“Getting people from the parking lots to the golf course, through admission, hospitality sponsors hearing from their guests,” he said. “I had one sponsor said 90% of their clients said they would not be coming.”
Along with losing revenue from ticket sales and the much bigger hit of hospitality, Peterson said the three pro-ams that would have been held typically bring in $1 million.
“We understand and respect that the Quad Cities market has dynamics and challenges that prevent the playing of the John Deere Classic in 2020,” said Andy Pazder, the tour’s chief tournaments and competitions officer. “As we’ve seen through the years, the community support for the John Deere Classic is unwavering and I have no doubt the event will return stronger than ever in its 50th playing in 2021.”
The tour is looking at other tournaments to fill that void in the schedule, and it might consider nearby communities as it tries to keep players, caddie and tournament operations in a “bubble” in the early stages of resuming play.
The Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit is the week before. The Memorial in Dublin, Ohio, is the week after. The Senior Players Championship at Firestone in Akron, Ohio, originally was to be played July 9-12 but has been moved back five weeks until August.