John Deere Classic
After the trials and tribulations of Bubba Watson at the Travelers It was another frustrating end to the week for us at the Rocket Mortgage Classic as our headline pick Kevin Kisner went from holding a share of the lead through nine holes on Sunday to ending in a four way tie for eighth. Still as I said last week that’s the way it goes at times and as long as we put ourselves in position regularly some weeks it will fall our way.
The event itself was one by Aussie Cameron Davis who triumphed in a three man play off over Troy Merritt and Joaquin Niemann. Davis was certainly in the ‘winner waiting to happen category’ and it will be interesting to see how he now pushes on.
With the Open Championship now less than two weeks away we move on to the traditional final PGA Tour Open ‘warm up event’, in the shape of the John Deere Classic., an event, which is about as far removed from the challenges the players will face at Sandwich next week as you can get!
The John Deere Classic first became an official PGA Tour event in 1972. At this time it was known as the Quad Cities Open. After a couple of further changes of sponsor it became the John Deere Classic in 1999 and since 2000 it has been played at TPC Deere Run.
The event was one of those to be postponed last year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic so it is a welcome return for it to the schedule after a 12 month absence.
The event is played in Silvis, Illinois, which is just around 420 miles West of Detroit, last weeks stop for the Rocket Mortgage.
With the event being played the week before the British Open there are obviously logistical troubles as well as preparational ones for players who are playing in the Open and who choose to tee it up at the John Deere.
To help with the travel issues and to help try and attract bigger names to its field, since 2006 The John Deere Classic has sponsored a charter flight which leaves the local area from Silvis on the Sunday night and arrives in Britain the following morning.
Despite the efforts of the sponsors to attract bigger names by putting on flights etc the field is bereft of star names with most of the games leading lights choosing to either take the week of or to tee it up in the Scottish Open as part of their Open Championship preparation.
The market is headed up by Daniel Berger, he is then followed by Brian Harman, Sungjae Im and Russell Henley.
Im along with Si Woo Kim, who also tee’s it up this week, have both chosen not to play in next weeks Open and to instead fully focus on their preparation for the up-coming Olympics. An event, in which a medal for either, will mean an exemption for their two year military service.
TPC Deere Run is a par 71 measuring just over 7250 yds
The greens are Bentgrass.
The course was designed by DA Weibring and was opened in 1999, it then underwent some renovation over 2006 & 2007.
TPC Deere Run is basically your archetypal birdie fest and if you don’t make plenty of them you wont be in with a shout this week.
Let’s firstly take a look at the last ten winners;
2019 Dylan Frittelli
2018 Michael Kim
2017 Bryson Dechambeau
2016 Ryan Moore
2015 Jordan Spieth
2014 Brian Harman
2013 Jordan Spieth
2012 Zach Johnson
2011 Steve Stricker
2010 Steve Stricker
Although as already mentioned the event tends to attract a fairly weak field until 2018 over the last 10yrs all of the winners have actually been players from the higher echelons of the game, particularly when seen in relation to the field teeing it up on the week.
These winners have been Steve Stricker x 2, Zach Johnson, Jordan Spieth x 2 [including his maiden tour win], Brian Harman, Ryan Moore and Bryson Dechambeau.
In 2018 this all changed though as unfancied Michael Kim arrived here on the back of three missed cuts and raced away with the trophy at what ever price you would have liked.
2019 then followed in a similar pattern as largely unfancied Dylan Frittelli triumphed having managed nothing better than 46th over the previous two months.
If we look at previous course history of these winners it’s a bit of a mixed bag.
The two course specialists Stricker & Zach Johnson obviously had a bundle of course form prior to their wins.
Frittelli was making his debut here in 2019 [the only one of the last ten winners who was] while 2018 winner Kim had finished 71st & 47th on two previous visits. Jordan Spieth had made the cut here on one previous visit prior to his first win, Brian Harman had a top twenty to his name in two previous visits, whilst Bryson Dechambeau had missed the cut on his only previous visit.
Ryan Moore however did have two top 10s to his name in four previous visits.
As for the recent form of past winners coming in to the event this throws up some interesting numbers.
Firstly five of the past ten winners had already won on tour that season.
This includes Stricker who had won previously on all of the three years he had won in succession, Zach Johnson and Jordan Spieth.
It’s also worth noting that several of these wins had come recently to the victory at John Deere. Spieth [ on his second win] had actually won on his previous start, Stricker on the year of one of his wins had triumphed recently at Memorial and Zach had won four starts previously at Colonial.
Four of the other winners over the past eleven years, Dechambeau, Moore, Harman and Spieth on his maiden win, had all posted previous top tens on the season.
In addition Moore and Dechambeau had both finished in the top 20 in their previous start, whilst Harman had a top 10 finish four starts prior.
As noted before though Frittelli and Kim threw all of these stats out of the window so to be honest now we seem to be looking at an event where ‘anything goes’ form wise coming in.
As I mentioned earlier TPC Deere Run basically offers up a barrage of birdie’s and this is reflected in the winning score over recent years.
The ‘highest’ winning scores we have seen in recent years was Perry’s -16 back in 2008 and Bryson Dechambeau’s winning total last year of -18, whilst the lowest was Stricker’s -26 back in 2010, however last year Kim improved on Stricker’s total by a shot, closing things out with -27.
The average winning score though tends to be around the -20 mark.
Temperatures look set to be in the high 80s or even low 90s all week. There is however a small possibility of storms across the week.
Winds could also be an issue with Friday through to Sunday showing the possibility of 20mph + gusts.
As I always say though this could all change!
I have gone with four players this week as follows;
RUSSELL HENLEY –20/1 - 2pts e/w – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 11th
First up for me this week on this basis is Russell Henley.
A fourth PGA Tour title for Henley anytime soon would surprise absolutely no one as he his game has been consistently trending in that direction now for nearly twelve months.
Henley is one of the most consistent players on tour from tee to green at the moment ranking fourth in approach play.
Russell played superbly at Torrey Pines and also the following week at TPC River Highlands before perhaps running out of gas in the latter event.
Rested now for a week he returns to a venue he finished second at in the last edition.
In a nutshell very much like when Henley last triumphed in Houston everything points to him in my eyes this week and I’m happy to have him on side.
PATRICK RODGERS – 80 /1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 23rd
I’ll make no apologies for siding with Patrick Rodgers again this week in an event, which is perfect for him to land that first win.
Rodgers hasn’t set the world alight of late however since changing golf ball a month or so ago he has played some solid stuff making four straight cuts and figuring prominently for the first couple of days at Torrey Pines.
What particularly caught my eye though was Patrick’s strong long game stats last week in Detroit where he ranked third off the tee for the week and gained strokes in approach play every day. Basically only a poor putting week held him back from being much higher up the board.
Rodgers finished second here back in 2017 so he clearly enjoys the track and I can see a big week ahead as he seeks to climb the Fedex Cup rankings.
KRAMER HICKOK – 80/1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED WD
We’ve seen plenty of shorter hitting accurate players flourish here over the years and I am going to take Kramer Hickok to be the next to do so this time out.
Hickok of course was valiant in defeat to Harris English at the Travelers doing everything but win and it was not surprising to see him put in a somewhat subdued performance last week in Detroit.
This week however on a course, which should reward his accurate tee to green game Kramer has an excellent chance to bounce back.
Hickok played strongly at Waialae in January, which links well here through Zach Johnson and Henley amongst others.
Nineteenth on tour in Driving accuracy and 39th in good old fashioned GIR Kramer should be giving himself plenty of looks and if he can find the putter in the way he did on his last TPC start at River Highlands he can flourish.
JJ SPAUN – 200/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 64th
Finally this week at big odds I will chance JJ Spaun. JJ is another accurate tee to green player who appears to have turned a corner of late.
Having struggled for most of the season Spaun has made four of his last six cuts and produced a strong qualifying performance for the US Open.
Last week in Detroit JJ produced another solid effort to finish 32nd and encouragingly he finished ninth for the week in putting the area that normally holds him back.
JJ missed the cut on his only previous visit here however this should really be a course, which suits him and I am happy to roll the dice at the odds this week.