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Hope for underdogs in Deere Classic

Shaun Michael, who won his first PGA title last month, likes his chances going into the John Deere Classic as an underdog.
Shaun Michael, who won his first PGA title last month, likes his chances going into the John Deere Classic as an underdog.
Brian Kersey, Associated Press

SILVIS, Ill. — Even with the most star-studded field since the PGA Tour first came to the Quad Cities more than 30 years ago, Shaun Micheel likes the chances of the underdogs at the John Deere Classic.

Micheel, whose first tour victory came at the PGA Championship last month, says he and British Open champion Ben Curtis are proof of the PGA Tour's depth.

"As players, we all know how good everyone is. It doesn't matter if you're teeing off at 2:03 in the last group or at 7 o'clock in the morning. Everybody, from top to bottom, they can all play out here," said Micheel, who was winless in 163 tour starts before winning the PGA title.

Micheel's prediction is welcome news to Zach Johnson, a native of nearby Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who earned a spot on the tour next year after setting a season earnings record this year on the Nationwide Tour.

The 27-year-old, who will tee off Thursday with a sponsor's exemption, said a field that includes 14 players with a combined 20 major championships is "pretty awesome" but not necessarily intimidating.

"I'm not trying to sound too confident or cocky, but I'm going to try to win. I'm playing decent, so in the back on my mind I think I can do it," said Johnson, coming off his second Nationwide win of the season last week.

Davis Love III, a four-time winner this year and the tour money leader, heads the field for the $3.5 million event at the 7,193-yard Tournament Players Club at Deere Run.

Vijay Singh, third on the money list, Justin Leonard, Mark O'Meara, John Daly, Bernhard Langer, Tom Lehman, Paul Azinger, Lee Janzen and Greg Norman are also in the field.

The Deere Classic added more household names after moving from its usual July spot on the schedule, when many players were gearing up for the British Open.

Defending champion J.P. Hayes said even more marquee players could turn out next year.

"I think word of mouth will get around, and when you hear it from a top player I think that's going to bring more top players in," said Hayes, who shot 22 under par last year, including a course-record 61 in the second round.

SENIOR WOMEN'S AMATEUR: At Austin, four-time defending champion Carol Semple Thompson beat Anne Carr for the third straight year Wednesday to advance to the semifinals at the USGA Senior Women's Amateur.

Thompson, of Sewickley, Pa., beat Carr 2 and 1 for her 28th straight match-play victory in the event.

Thompson will face Nancy Fitzgerald of Carmel, Ind., a 1-up winner in 19 holes over Jo-Ann Lindsay of Edina, Minn., in Thursday morning's semifinals.

"Tomorrow could be a very special day, but I'm trying not to think about it because it gets in the way of me playing the golf course," Thompson said.

In the other semifinal, Marlene Streit of Toronto, who beat Carolyn Creekmore 2 and 1, will face Marianne Towersey of Newport Beach, Calif., who defeated Pat Milton of Munroe Falls, Ohio, 6 and 5.

LANCOME TROPHY: At Saint-nom-la-Breteche, France, Ben Curtis is anxious to get back to work.

In Europe for the first time since winning the British Open, Curtis is focused on golf this week at the Lancome Trophy. That's a tough chore considering his schedule included a White House visit, a slew of television interviews, a wedding and honeymoon and a four-day stop in Monte Carlo.

"It's been a lot of fun," Curtis said Wednesday as he prepared for the tournament in suburban Paris. "But it takes more out of you than you think."

Curtis and his new wife Candice have already visited the Eiffel Tower, and the couple plans to see some of the other sites. But, golf is paramount for Curtis.

"For the most part, I'm going back to work," he said. "I've already had some practice time to get back in the swing. I haven't played as well as I would have liked since the Open."

Curtis tied for 61st at the Buick Open, missed the cut at the PGA Championship and the Deutsche Bank Championship and tied 30th at the WGC NEC Invitational, where he got married after the third round.

In addition to Curtis' early-round playing partners Colin Montgomerie and Justin Rose, the Lancome field includes Retief Goosen, Padraig Harrington, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Ian Woosnam.