Sharp contrast between two top golfers in Deere classic

BY ROBBIE LEHMAN | JULY 10, 2009 7:10 AM

SILVIS, Ill. — Thursday’s leaderboard at the John Deere Classic was filled with a range of names. Some were familiar, others not so much.

In particular, there was a sharp contrast between co-leader Lee Janzen and co-second-place holder Matt Bettencourt.

Janzen, who posted a 64 (7 under), is a two-time U.S. Open champion, winning in 1993 and 1998. However, after a mid-career slump, he has re-tooled his swing, nearly from top to bottom.

“I never had a struggle or a challenge like I’ve gone through the last few years,” he said. “I’m still hitting right-handed. Other than that, I think everything’s different.”

A newfound belief in self has propelled Janzen back atop the leaderboard after the first round at TPC Deere Run.

“I think confidence is the most valuable club in your bag,” Janzen said.

Bettencourt finished the opening day with a bogey-free round of 65. But golf wasn’t originally the Alameda, Calif., native’s sport of preference. The 33-year-old PGA rookie actually dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player growing up.

“I just never played that much golf growing up,” Bettencourt said. “I played a lot of junior tournaments and made a U.S. Junior Amateur, but I never really took the game seriously. I always played golf and was a scratch golfer from age 15, but I just never really pursued it seriously.
“I started taking it seriously when I was about 21. That’s why I turned professional late, at 26.”

The road to the PGA Tour was less paved than Bettencourt imagined.

“I thought I thought it would be much easier for me to get to the PGA Tour, and here I am, seven years later, my first year,” he said. “It’s tough, but now I’m enjoying it probably as much as anybody.”

The biggest question for Janzen after his round was what a win would mean to him.

“It would be exciting, you know; I would love to win,” he said. “If it doesn’t happen this week, I still think that I’m capable of winning, and it won’t stop me from continuing to work on my game to get better and put myself in position. “The better I get at every aspect of the game, the better my chances are that when I get in the hunt again that I’ll perform properly.”

Bettencourt was asked what his expectations were coming into this weekend, and the newcomer gave an honest answer.

“To not be intimidated,” he said. “You know, everybody plays the same game other than maybe one fellow, and we all know who that is. We’re all trying to compete and play to our best ability.”

Now, openly admitting that he was once a “streaky player,” he agrees with Janzen about the importance of self-confidence.

“I was streaky last year,” he said. “I play on confidence and like to feed off that. I’m in the middle of it right now, so I’m going to keep playing as many weeks as I can and ride this out.

“I really feel comfortable, and I’m just enjoying myself. Every week is a new city, a new golf course, and I love it. We’re so spoiled, and we’re taken care of so well, I love every minute of this. I’m eating it up.”

These two pros are at different points in their respective careers. But in a way they are also at the same spot. And if either ends up winning on July 12, it will mean the same to both of them.

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