John Deere Classic
So, where to begin with last week…Let’s get the basics out of the way first of all, the Travelers was won by Xander Schauffele who bagged his first PGA Tour solo win since the 2019 Sentry ToC. Credit to Schauffele who after blazing in to a five shot lead with back to back rounds of 63 on Thursday and Friday nursed his lead home over the weekend to win on tour from the front for the first time.
From our point of view though this doesn’t begin to tell the story as our 110/1 pick Sahith Theegala had the tournament in his hands as he stood on the 18th tee with a one shot lead only for a horror show to unfold before our eyes.
For those who didn’t see how it played out an aggressive tee shot found the fairway bunker – under the lip, and after his first attempt to get out of the bunker failed the youngster was eventually left watching a 12ft bogey putt slip agonisingly by, thus gifting the title to Schauffele.
The hugely talented Theegala who has now had three chances to win on tour this season will undoubtedly learn from this and go on to win on Tour, probably to a high level, however this one will hurt him for a while no doubt.
As for us, well we just have to hope that with back to back runner up finishes now with Zalatoris and Theegala that the golfing gods will be smiling on us on a Sunday again soon, and hopefully, after the way we lost out in Connecticut, in a big way.
So as always in this game we need to be thick skinned and pick ourselves up and move on to this weeks event, The John Deere Classic.
With the Open Championship now two weeks away the John Deere Classic has moved from its traditional slot of the final warm up event on the PGA Tour Open before the battle on the links for the Claret Jug.
The reason for this is to accommodate the tour’s ‘strategic alliance’ with the DP World Tour, which has lead to next weeks Scottish Open being given PGA Tour status, therefore the John Deere moves forward a week on the schedule to avoid being an opposite field event, honours, which will be taken instead by the Barbasol next week.
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 is played in Silvis, Illinois, which is just around 1000 miles west of last weeks stop in Connecticut for the Travelers.
Despite the event avoiding the ‘opposite field’ status it would have held next week, the line up on display is a really poor one. Clear favouritism honours go to Daniel Berger. The Floridian is then followed in the market by Webb Simpson, Adam Hadwin and the aforementioned Theegala.
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 won’t be in with a shout this week.
Let’s firstly take a look at the last ten winners;
2021 Lucas Glover
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
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 whatever 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. Last year though saw former US Open Champion Lucas Glover triumph for the first time in ten years.
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.
Similarly last year’s winner Glover had shown a liking to the track finishing tenth and 25th in his two previous visits.
As for the recent form of past winners coming in to the event this throws up some interesting numbers.
Firstly three of the past ten winners had already won on tour that season. These were Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson and Jordan Spieth.
Four of the other winners over the past ten years, Dechambeau, Moore, Harman and Spieth on his maiden win, had all posted previous top ten’s 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, while although last years winner Glover had an eighth at the Charles Schwab four starts prior he had managed nothing better than 37th in his previous three starts. To be honest then 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 of -18 in 2017, while the lowest was Michael Kim’s -27 in 2018.
The average winning score though tends to be around the -20 mark and last year saw Glover triumph with -19.
We look set as a whole for dry sunny conditions with temperatures in the high 80s or even low 90s all week. There is however a small possibility of a storm on Friday at the time of writing.
Winds could also be an issue on Thursday with gust of 20mph+ showing as a possibility before they taper off as the week progresses.
As I always say though this could all change!
I have gone with six players this week as follows;
ADAM SCHENK –50/1 - 1pt e/w – 1/5 odds 1st 8. - WD FTER ROUND 1
In an event where it is in all honesty a struggle to find the value I’ll start things off with a ‘horses for courses’ pick in Adam Schenk.
Brought up in neighbouring Indiana Schenk has clearly taken to TPC Deere Run, talking about how the whole ‘farming connection’ really reminds him of ‘back home’, on his way to finishing sixth and fourth over the past couple of years.
Looking at those two finishes and on both occasions Adam arrived in pretty poor form before flicking the switch in comfortable surroundings and producing a great week. Furthermore last years result was a springboard to a strong run of form, which saw him finish 15th the following week at the Barbasol and come close to posting a maiden win at the Barracuda before finishing fourth. Clearly then Adam enjoys this time of year.
Moving on to this season then and Adam started off strongly with a third place at the Shriners, on another par 71 TPC track, before losing his way in the early part of 2022.
More recently though since a ninth place at the Wells Fargo he has produced some far more consistent stuff making five of his past seven cuts and delivering a really solid 24th at the US Open.
Understandably perhaps after the grind of the US Open Schenk missed the cut at the Travelers last week however to be honest, having shot rounds of 72 68, I am not going to get hung up about that, particularly as it will have given him the chance to recharge the batteries.
On to this week then and having knocked on the door for a while now and having turned 30 earlier this year, it could well be time for Schenk to step up and land his first tour title, and if that is to happen this seems the ideal venue for him to achieve it at.
RYAN MOORE – 100 /1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 24th
Next up I will take the bait being dangled by the layers on Ryan Moore.
On a course, which clearly is one of Moore’s favourites on tour if he was in any kind of eye catching form he would be down amongst the favourites in the betting and much fancied to strike in the type of ‘secondary event’ that in his prime who made a career in hoovering up in.
What we have here this week though of course is not the Ryan Moore of old but one that has struggled with injury over the past couple of years and now finds himself scrapping for starts in the 125-150 category having been unable to fulfil his ‘Major Medical’ points requirement.
Moore’s final start of that ‘medical’ came at the Memorial where he returned after yet another three month break and it was positive to see him make the cut even if he did struggle over the weekend.
More encouragingly, and perhaps with the shackles from needing to produce to satisfy his ‘medical’ off, Ryan then headed up to Canada and posted his best result, 35th, since his runner up finish here last year, notching par or better every day. Furthermore his tee to green stats were strong as he ranked 27th in this area for the week.
Obviously the fact we are focusing on a ‘best of season’ 35th says all we need to know about where Rayan’s game has been at however he was strugglingly hugely last year when he pitched up and finished second and in this level of field on this course I am willing to roll the dice that he can step up here again once more.
HAYDEN BUCKLEY – 100 /1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 30th
Next up in an event where for several over the years, most recently Glover, the route to success has been fairways and greens, I will chance at what seem fair odds Hayden Buckley.
In his rookie season on the PGA Tour Buckley sits in a relatively comfortable 96th place on the Fedex standings, however most of his best work was done in the early part of the campaign with back to back top tens at the Sanderson Farms and Shriners and then a 12th place at the beginning of the new year at the Sony.
Since then however it has been a grind for Buckley however a 14th place after qualification at the US Open will surely have boosted his confidence and he went on to play all four rounds at the Travelers last week.
Moving on to this week then and Hayden has talked fondly about how his golfing life was turned around by the coach at the University of Missouri taking a chance on him so an opportunity to tee it up four hours or so away from where he attended college will surely be welcome and my hope is he will have plenty of support.
What I also hope will be welcome is a return to a par 71 TPC track akin to the Shriners, which we know links well here through the likes of Moore, Dechambeau and Schenk.
If Hayden then can bring the putter, which saw him rank 23rd on the dance floor at the Travelers and align it to his normal fairways and greens game this course could really suit him and I am happy to take a chance on him this week.
NATE LASHLEY – 125/1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Another player who grabs my eye this week and whose odds strike me as decent value in this company is Nate Lashley.
One time tour winner Lashley has quietly been putting a solid 21/22 campaign together currently sitting at 83rd in the Fedex Cup standings.
Looking at Nate’s results so far this season and other than a seventh in Puerto Rico it has been very much a case of ‘steady as she goes’ rather than the one big result as he has posted six further top twenties to go with the lone top ten.
Looking at those stronger results, and indeed those over Lashley’s previous seasons, and it is where they tend to come, which particularly grabs my eye. To expand further and it would seem clear that Nate is most comfortable on low scoring tracks, which require a hot putter.
This is evidenced by his two 17th place finishes at the Sandersons and Byron Nelson with -16 and -18 totals respectively and his -12 total for 11th place in Mexico, a result, which would have been much better bar a disappointing Sunday.
If we then go back to last season his two top fives came in low scoring events at the Corales and Pebble Beach while of course his lone win to date came with a -25 total at the Rocket Mortgage.
Returning to this season and in keeping with his steady results Nate is doing most things solidly with his only negative stat for the season being around the greens, while last week at TPC River Highlands he ranked between 27th and 37th in all ‘strokes gained’ stats on his way to 25th place.
Lashley has made one previous trip to TPC Deere Run when he finished 26th back in 2019, a performance, which included a round of 65 so that offers further encouragement.
Finally, and returning to Nate’s finest hour on tour to date, and it can’t do any harm that his win in Detroit came in this exact week on the calendar in 2019, something, which I am sure he will be aware of.
To sum up and Nate has been producing some strong numbers this season as a whole and in this drop in class, on a course, which should favour his low scoring style, it wont take much of an improvement to see him right in the hunt at juicy odds.
TAYLOR MOORE – 150/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 24th
Another player who appears to enjoy a low scoring contest is Taylor Moore and there is enough in the rookie’s profile to have me risk him this week.
Moore made his way on to the PGA Tour courtesy of a strong 20/21 season on the Korn ferry Tour, which saw him hit a purple patch in the summer of 21 where he posted a win and a runner up in consecutive starts with totals of -27 and -25. 52- under over a fortnight then, not bad going!
Significantly also for this week that win for Taylor came in the Memorial Health Championship held in Springfield, Illinois, a couple of hours away from this weeks venue. One would hope then the rookie will feel very comfortable back in this neck of the woods.
Since graduating on to the PGA Tour it has understandably been much tougher going for Moore, however he has done enough to date to sit 98th in the Fedex standings and well on his way to keeping his card. Noteworthy also for this week is that, away from his fourth place finish in the pairs, in keeping with his pattern on the Korn Ferry his best efforts have come in lower scoring events with an eighth place at the RSM with a 14- under total his best return.
Following a 32nd place at TPC Craig Ranch Taylor missed the cut at the Charles Schwab and the Memorial however last week at TPC River Highlands he was around for all four days finishing 56th.
Back then on a low scoring track, which suit and in an area, where he should have positive vibes I’ll chance Moore to click this week.
JONAS BLIXT – 400/1 – 1/2pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Finally this week at massive odds I will take a roll of the dice on Jonas Blixt to small stakes.
Having completely lost his way over recent years Blixt has been playing this season on a ‘Major Medical’ following a torn labrum and this week sees him needing to basically win the event to get the points needed, something, which were he to achieve it would naturally take care of business in itself.
A forlorn hope then most likely, meaning Jonas can, you would think, free wheel it this week. Assuming so and it is just possible that on a course, which has rewarded a hot putter over the years, he might just be able to continue his recent upturn in form which has caught the eye.
Looking at that uptick in greater detail and firstly in Canada he produced his best finish on tour in over three years to finish 28th with rounds of 67 and a final day 65 thrown in.
This result also came on the back of the Swede qualifying for the US Open where he talked about how things were “going a lot better with his game”, something which he obviously then showed at St Georges later in the week.
A missed cut at the US Open then followed however there were more good signs at TPC River Highlands where Blixt added a 56th place finish with his best round of the week an eye catching 66 on Friday.
Looking at Jonas’ scorecard for the week at the Travelers and it was a case of ‘never a dull moment’ as he mixed bogeys and birdies for fun across the four days, however his putter, always his best weapon over the years was firing as he ranked third in that area.
Clearly the 38yr old is a long way from where he would want his game to be however he has found more than his share of fairways over his last two starts and if he can find something in his approach play, which was poor last week but better relatively in Canada, and of course ride that hot putter, he could just find the frame at huge odds.