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Monday qualifier Chris Naegel in John Deere Classic mix after opening eagle

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Published in Golf
Thursday, 30 June 2022 09:48

Monday qualifier Chris Naegel started the John Deere Classic with a bang — and didn't stop there. 

Starting his sixth-career PGA Tour start on the back nine, Naegel stepped up to TPC Deere Run's par-5 10th and on his third shot, holed out from 102 yards for eagle. 

"I wouldn't say (the eagle) like relaxed me," Naegel said, "but I was like, 'Okay, let's go make some birdies now.'" 

En route to a 5-under 66  — a new Tour-low round for Naegel by a stroke — that has him T-3, four shots off J.T. Poston's lead, the 39-year-old carded six birdies, along with three bogeys on his second nine. 

"Made a mess of a couple holes and then made a few more birdies and tried to make a mess of last two," he said, "but got away with it on [No. 8] (with a 15-foot par putt from the rough) and here we are."

As "just a guy just playing golf here and there when I can," Naegel, whose best world ranking was No. 769 in 2019, has been around the block. He's played professionally since '08 and has 73 Korn Ferry Tour starts to his name, with four top 10s and his best finish a solo fourth in '19. 

Most recently, the Missouri native qualified for his second U.S. Open and made the cut, finishing T-56 in Brookline, but was still "disappointed because I didn't feel like I hit it that well," as he continues to pursue his dream. 

"I want to play the PGA Tour," he said. "I don't think anybody wants to play the rest of their life on the Korn Ferry Tour, even though it's a phenomenal tour. This is where you want to play, so try to get as many opportunities out here as you can."

Even though he's approaching 40, Naegel doesn't plan on getting a day job anytime soon. 

"I don't know if there is an end of the trail in golf," he said. "You can play it forever. If I can play, I'll keep playing. I've got great support."

Naegel hopes to ride his Monday and Thursday heroics toward being the first Monday qualifier to win on Tour since Corey Conners at the 2019 Valero Texas Open.

He'll follow the same game plan he had in Round 1 and maybe more indelible moments will come. But Naegel isn't putting too much pressure on himself. 

"This is a bonus, so I got nothing to lose," he said. "Just go out and have fun and try to make birdies." 

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