Call it cockiness or confidence: Amateur Luke Clanton is vibing at John Deere Classic

By | July 8, 2024

Call it cockiness or confidence: Amateur Luke Clanton is vibing at John Deere Classic

Luke Clanton drives green leading to eagle on No. 14 at John Deere

What’s next for amateur Luke Clanton after playing his way into PGA TOUR contention for a second straight week at the John Deere Classic?

“Go out and play some more golf,” the 20-year-old Floridian said after a 4-under round of 67 on Friday lifted him to 12-under for the tournament, tied for third at the close of the morning draw. “Simple as that.”

Actually, it’s not quite that simple for Clanton, who equivocated Friday about his future after insisting earlier in the week he is resolute on returning to Florida State as a junior come fall to chase an NCAA National Championship.

Asked if that still will be the plan should he find himself holding the John Deere trophy come Sunday, Clanton’s answer was telling.

“We’ll see,” he said.

“We have two more days of golf,” he said. “We’ve got to do that first.”

Clearly, Clanton has a lot of golf in front of him — which includes a sponsor exemption into next week’s ISCO Championship in Kentucky — and he has shown he has the game and the confidence to play it successfully at the highest

His tie for 10th at last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic follows a solid U.S. Open performance, where he was one of two amateurs to advance to the weekend and finished tied for 41st.

“Not really,” he said when asked if he has been surprised by his summer success. “I don’t want to sound cocky or boastful at all, but we’ve trained to do what we’re doing here. 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

Luke Clanton on upcoming generation’s talent on TOUR

Clanton showed the inner fortitude of TOUR veteran on Friday by closing with birdies on his final two holes after a messy double bogey at No. 6, his 16th hole of the day after starting on the backside.

No. 6 is where Clanton scored his only bogey in an 8-under opening round of 63 on Thursday, and a loose tee shot Friday spelled trouble again.

His reaction?

“Yeah, just whatever,” he said. “I hit a crappy 2-iron, and it was just an unfortunate break to be by a tree. I tried to pull off a Tiger shot and didn’t do it.

“Yeah, it was just fun,” he added of the resulting double. “It was a blast honestly. I mean, we hadn’t really made a mistake all week, and made one tiny mistake and made double. I knew it was all right. Going to make birdie, birdie, no matter what.”

You knew you were going to make birdie, birdie?

“I knew I was going to make birdie, birdie,” he said.

OK. Now you’re sounding cocky, he was told.

“I knew it,” he said, calm and a bit bemused. “I knew. After I got that double, I said to myself, ‘We ain’t finishing at 10-under; we’re going to finish at 12.’”

Call it cockiness or call it confidence, but Clanton sure seems to have what it takes come Sunday to be the 24th first-time TOUR winner in the 54-year history of the John Deere.

He could join major champions Payne Stewart, David Toms, Brian Harman and Bryson DeChambeau in that club and also become youngest Quad Cities champion since three-time major winner Jordan Spieth prevailed in 2013, just weeks shy of his 20th birthday.

Interestingly, Clanton and caddie Jason Wiertel have a story similar to that of Spieth and his bag man, Michael Greller. They first teamed up in 2022 at Pinehurst, where Clanton was on the practice tee preparing for the North & South Men’s Amateur Championship.

Like Greller, Wiertel is a teacher who caddies during the summer, and he was on the Pinehurst practice tee with his young daughter, Lucy, when they spied Clanton practicing.

“She’s a little grinder,” Wiertel said. “Luke took one swing, and she walked over and said, ‘Hey, how far do you hit your pitching wedge?’ I asked if he had a caddie. He won the damn thing, and we just kind of stayed in touch.”

When told that story has a Spieth-Greller vibe, Clanton responded: “Yeah, you could call it that. But I call it the ‘Clanton-Wiertel’ vibe.”

Call it cocky, or call it confident, but Luke Clanton is vibing in a very promising direction.

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