Like your neighbor who continues to blast off a few, lonely fireworks throughout the month, well past The 4th of July Holiday, The PGA Tour too has made only feint noises since Brooks Koepka survived Shinnecock Hills and took home his second straight U.S. Open Championship. The party is back underway this week in Silvis, Illinois however – and at Gullane Golf Club in Scotland – as we have arrived at the penultimate week of the season’s third Major Championship, The Open Championship at Carnoustie in Angus, Scotland.
Many of those competing at Carnoustie have chosen to conduct their tune up rounds at The Scottish Open, including Mickelson, Fowler, Hoffman, Kuchar, Rose, Matsuyama, defending champ, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, and Masters Champion, Patrick Reed. Stateside, we have The John Deere Classic and only four of the Top 50 ranked players in the world are here. But don’t be mislead. While the field is certainly watered down, this tournament turns lemons into lemonade like none other.
The event began in 1971 in Iowa but since year 2000, The John Deere Classic has been played at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois. The tournament sponsor may be the greatest The Tour has as it has created a love affair between the locals from America’s heartland and this golf event. A two time winner of the tournament, D.A. Weibring, designed the course. With water coming into play on five holes and average sized, bentgrass greens, TPC Deere Run has also become a favorite with the players because of its consistency. They know what they are getting each and every year they tee it up. The scoring average of 69.75 in 2017, rarely changes more than a tick. The winning score for the last eighteen winners has not varied by more than six shots, always right around 20-under par. The course is a Par 71 and measures 7,257 yards. Further adding to the hospitable atmosphere of The John Deere Classic, for ten years now, a private charter plane is provided immediately following the tournament, zipping the players from the grounds, hassle-free and overseas, to The Open Championship by Monday afternoon, no worse for the wear.
Neither Driving Accuracy or Driving Distance have proven to be especially related to success here at The John Deere but rather one’s approach to the green, scrambling, and putting are the areas in which the winners have flourished. Find a player who is hitting greens and is carrying a hot putter, and you may have found someone who can get to 20-under par this week. As far as crossover success, we can look at Colonial Country Club and The Fort Worth Invitational. This is another course where the approach on in and putting go a long way. David Frost, David Toms, Zach Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Steve Stricker, and Kenny Perry have each won both events.
Francesco Molinari (10-1) Certainly one of the most in form players in the world the past couple of months, this is Molinari’s debut playing The Deere. It is hard to say that a guy who has two wins and a 2nd place finish in the last six weeks has any weakness but that has traditionally been putting for Molinari. At this short of a price and making his first ever appearance, with The Open on tap, in a putting contest – I am not interested.
Bryson DeChambeau (12-1) DeChambeau, like many, earned his first PGA Tour victory at The Deere last year. He’s having a tremendous season and he checks all of the boxes statistically – but I am not thrilled with the number when banking on a guy to repeat.
Zach Johnson (12-1) An absolutely stunning track record at this event. A win in 2012, three 2nd place finishes, and two 3rd place finishes. Even at 12-to-1 it’s hard to not take a look. Feels like a horse race, where you key Zach and pile on a handful of others behind him.
Steve Stricker (20-1) Equally incredible to the record of Johnson’s is Stricker’s. He won here three years in a row from 2009 to 2011 and has five additional Top 10 finishes. He’s also won twice this year on The Champions Tour.
Austin Cook (30-1) Cook has two Top 10 finishes in his last three starts and he can make birdies with the best of ’em, ranking 28th on Tour in Birdie Average. Much of this is due to his ability to putt as he ranks 30th in Strokes Gained: Putting
Chris Kirk (40-1) Kirk has successfully made it to the weekend at The John Deere in four out of five tries with one Top 25-finish. He won at Colonial in 2015 and ranks 22nd on Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach The Green and 15th in Scrambling.
The Long Shots
Chez Reavie (50-1) The Arizona State Sundevil has only missed one cut in seven visits to The Deere. The problem is, he’s missed three cuts in his last four starts. The one start in which he made the weekend however, was a 6th place finish in Memphis. He has all of the stats this week. We’ll see which of his current forms shows up.
Scott Piercy (60-1) The Las Vegas native is extremely efficient from tee to green and can be very streaky when it comes to making birdies. The question mark is the flatstick as he ranks 154th on Tour in Putting Average. He’s in the conversation this week if he decides this will be one of those streaky hot weeks with the putter.
Sam Saunders (80-1) Speaking of the putter, Saunders makes a living with his as he ranks 22nd in Putting Average and is inside the Top 100 for Strokes Gained. The flatstick has helped Saunders climb all the way to 23rd on Tour in Birdie Average. He took 25th here last year and 24th at Colonial last season. He was 5th last week at The Greenbrier.
Chesson Hadley (25-1) Hadley is enjoying the best season of his career, one that includes seven Top 10 finishes. The last coming two weeks ago at The Quicken Loans National where he ranked 2nd in the field for Strokes Gained: Putting and took 8th. He was 25th here last year after missing the cut in his first two attempts. He also took 20th at Colonial this season and 24th in 2015. Hadley is 4th on Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach The Green, 9th in Birdie Average, and 8th in Putting Average. Speaking about setting off fireworks after The 4th of July, Hadley just may be that guy as his birthday is the 5th. I think even a week later, this week – he may still be celebrating.
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