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John Deere Classic: Preview & DFS Picks

After an exciting week at The Greenbrier, the PGA Tour hits it’s final stop before the British Open this week at the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois. The tournament has had its roots in the Midwest since 1971, when it began at the Quad Cities Open. After being held in Iowa since it’s inception, the tournament moved to Oakwood Country Club in Coal Valley, Illinois and remained there till 2000, when it then found it’s permanent home in Silvis as TPC Deere Run. Since the tournament began with it’s current sponsor framework in 1999, the competition has been very consistent. A winner has never won by more than 4 strokes and there have been 7 Sunday playoff finishes, most recently in 2015 when Jordan Spieth defeated Tom Gillis to win his 2nd John Deere Classic. And the scores have gone low as well, in 19 tournaments the “worst” winning score was -16, and the best was Steve Stricker’s -26 in 2010, amidst his 2nd of 3 consecutive wins at the course. In 2017 it ranked 38th out of the 50 tournaments on Tour (1 is the hardest, 50th is easiest), putting it actually in the negative of strokes gained over the course of the PGA Tour season.

Like The Greenbrier and perhaps Quicken Loans National as well, the John Deere Classic has struggled to maintain elite fields following a crowded schedule from The Players to the US Open. The most likely reason that this tournament, as well as others in June and early July struggle to recruit top players, is because the courses just don’t simulate the structural layout nor the weather that competitors will see across the pond at The Open Championship. A smart initiative that the PGA Tour has taken has been to promote the “Open Qualifying Series”- where top finishers in PGA events leading up to The Open can last-minute qualify for the British. This week any player who finishes in the top-5 who hasn’t already qualified to compete at Carnoustie will be exempted in. Still, even the top players on Tour have left early, as the new strategy among some top US (and abroad) players has been to compete at the Irish Open (this past week) and the Scottish Open this week. Notables like 2013 Open Champion Phil Mickelson, 2018 Masters Champion Patrick Reed, and others studs like Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Hideki Matsuyama will all be at Gullane Golf Club competing at the Scottish. Another point to note- the John Deere Classic has recently begun sponsoring a charter flight from Illinois to England Sunday night to help with the 6-hour time change and for players to be able to compete in the US while still having time to learn the Open course’s layout.

Las Vegas Odds

Bryson DeChambeau 10-1
Francesco Molinari 10-1
Zach Johnson 12-1
Joaquin Niemann 16-1
Ryan Moore 18-1
Kyle Stanley 20-1
Steve Stricker 20-1
Chesson Hadley 30-1
Austin Cook 40-1
Wesley Bryan 45-1
Andrew Landry 50-1
David Lingmerth 50-1
Chris Kirk 55-1
Danny Lee 55-1
Brian Gay 60-1
Kevin Streelman 60-1
Kevin Tway 60-1
Scott Piercy 60-1
Sung Kang 60-1

Power Rankings

5. Wesley Bryan (Darkhorse)

Despite what DFS ratings might tell you, Bryan is still a darkhorse this week. He sits 141st in the FedEc Cup Points List and has yet to crack a top-10 this season. That being said, Bryan is a safer pick than one might think- he’s had 2 of his top 3 best finishes this season in the last month, and has had great success at the John Deere, albeit with a small sample size. At last year’s event he finished tied for 3rd at -16, finishing just two shots back of Bryson DeChambeau. The year prior in his first time at the event, Bryan shot -14 to tie for 8th. In both tournaments, he shot a 64 once over the course of the week. For Bryan this season it has come down to his weaknesses in the tee box. He ranks outside the top-200 on Tour in strokes gained: off the tee and is 170th in SG: tee to green. But he has been able to recover around the greens and with the putter, ranking in the top 30 in both stokes gained: around the green and SG: putting. The course sets up well for Bryan as he won’t have to worry about driving the ball straight or hitting greens. When he gets to the putting surface, he’s elite at one putt percentage (8th at over 42%) and 3-putt avoidance (26th at 2.22%). Expect Bryan to make a run this week at a familiar course, and if he can make the right reads he should be able to contend.

4. Steve Stricker

He’s an interesting pick this week, but the Presidents Cup Captain has been successful when he’s played on the PGA Tour this year. Stricker has made 7 of 9 cuts this season and when he has played all 4 days of a tournament, he’s never finished outside the top-32. Stricker has excellent history with this course, winning the championship 3 straight times from 2009 to 2011. And although the 51-year-old has begun to play on a compact schedule in recent years, he’s still consistently played well here each year. Last year after opening up with a 73, he proceeded to shoot 67-65-64 to finish tied for 5th at -14. Since winning his final of 3 straight championships here in 2011, he since has finished T5 (2012), T10 (2013), T11 (2014), T35 (2015) and T52 (2016). This course, like some other shorter players on this list, suits him well because he won’t have to be particularly long or accurate off the tee and can take advantage of the greens with his elite putting stroke. It should be another exciting week for the veteran at his favorite course.

3. Zach Johnson

In case you haven’t noticed the theme this week- shorter players who can PUTT can win! Johnson loves this tournament and it’s not surprising- after winning at TPC Deere Run in 2012 in a playoff against Troy Matteson, the Masters Champion has rattled off finishes of T2 (2013), 2 (2014), T3 (2015), T34 (2016) and most recently T5 last year. Johnson is playing well this year and is coming off back-to-back top-20 finishes at the US Open and The Travelers Championship, where at the latter he shot an opening round 63. The #51 player in the world has notoriously struggled with length off the tee, and this year is no different as he ranks outside the top-150 on Tour ind riving distance. However, he does rank 18th in SG: approaching the green and 27th in SG: tee to green. His only other issue has been with the putter and his struggles to make birdies. While his 3-put percentage is 12th best this year, he ranks 90th overall in SG: putting and outside the top-100 in total putting. Johnson is here in the Power Rankings because he truly knows the course and has had a ton of prior success here, so don’t be surprised if he can put some of those putting problems on the back burner this week and contend for a top-5 finish once again.

2. Bryson DeChambeau

Currently sitting at 6th in the FedEx Cup rankings, the 23-year-old SMU product is cruising in 2018 he makes a pit stop at the course where he earned his first PGA Tour victory exactly one year ago. Since then the “Mad Scientist” has won the Memorial at Jack’s place, and in has rattled off top-5 finishes at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the RBC Heritage, and the Wells Fargo Championship. More impressively, there’s nothing about DeChambeau’s game that he really needs to improve on. He ranks in the top-20 in nearly every strokes gained category with the exception of his short game, but at 52nd in putting while still sitting at 10th in birdie average, 25th in eagle average, and 14th in total scoring average, it’s hard to say he’s not finishing holes. In just his 3rd full professional season it appears that a highly engineered and scientific approach might be the key to winning it all, ad DeChambeau looks locked in to make it to the Tour Championship. The move to play in the US this week might not bode well for him next week at Carnoustie, but in terms of Power Rankings he is justifiably a favorite heading into a tournament that he won in 2017.

1. Francesco Molinari

Although he has never played the John Deere Classic before, there is arguably no hotter golfer on the planet right now than the Italian. He’s coming off a great win at the Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac a few weeks ago, where he shot a blistering 62 on Sunday to tie the course record and easily capture his first PGA Tour victory. It’s clear that gaining momentum into the FedEc Cup Playoffs is the priority for Molinari, who told reporters he’s pleased after struggling to find his footing at the beginning of the year. “It’s great to turn a season around like that, like I’ve done in the last few weeks. There is still time to hopefully add more wins or more good results anyway. So like I said in Washington, the goal is to get to the Tour Championship. Never been there, so I really love to play there.” Before the win in Maryland, Molinari solidly finished T25 at the US Open at Shinnecock Hills. And prior to coming to the States he finished solo 2nd at the Italian Open after winning the BMW PGA Championship in Europe. Like the QL National article mentioned a few weeks ago prior to his win- if he can find his putting stroke he is a dangerous player on Tour. He stills ranks poorly with the putter this year (191st in SG: putting and 203rd in total putting), but he has absolutely killed it from tee to green, ranking 4th this year in SG: off the tee and 2nd in SG: tee to green. He’s also 28th in greens in regulation and 33rd in scoring average. Currently at 43rd in the FedEx Cup Rankings, Molinari will look to catapult himself into the top-30 to give himself some breathing room before he heads back to Europe for The Open.

DFS Picks

Zach Johnson -> $11,200

Wesley Bryan -> $9,100

Kelly Kraft -> $7,900

Joel Dahmen -> $7,600

Sam Saunders -> $7,200

Dylan Meyer -> $7,000

Remaining Salary -> $0

Live TV coverage will begin at 4pm EST on the Golf Channel. PGA Tour Radio will be live from 1-7pm, and you can also follow feature groups from 8am-4pm on PGA Tour Live as well as featured groups from 4-7pm. Check back next week as COO Austin Meo breaks down the British Open field with an expanded Power Rankings list, as well as an in-depth analysis of DFS picks, course preview and Vegas odds. 

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