Inside the Ropes
John Deere Classic
TPC Deere Run, Silvis, Illinois
TPC Deere Run
Par: 71 (35-36)
Rough: 3” Kentucky bluegrass
Average green size: 8,000 square feet Bentgrass
Stimpmeter: 11 ft.
Water Hazards: 3
Course Architect: D.A. Weibring (1999); PGA Tour Design (2006-2007)
Winner’s Share: $828,000 and 500 FedExCup points
Defending Champion: Steve Stricker won his third consecutive title here last year when he drained a 25-foot birdie on 18 to deprive Kyle Stanley of his first-career TOUR victory.
Date: July 12-15
Notes: Also known as the “Steve Stricker Invitational” the John Deere Classic is the last chance for golfers, who haven’t already qualified, to get into The Open Championship next week at Royal Lytham and St. Annes.
From the PGA TOUR Media Site: The leading player not otherwise exempt, among the top five finishers at the John Deere Classic will receive an exemption into British Open. Ties will be determined by the highest-ranking player in Official World Golf ranking at the commencement of the tournament.
Stricker is looking to join Tom Morris, Jr. (remember him on your fantasy team?), Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and Tiger Woods as the only players in history to win an event four consecutive times.
For the second week in a row, the TOUR returns to a site of “59”. In 2010 Paul Goydos fired the magic number in his opening round. Steve Stricker went on to post the 36, 54 and 72-hole course records that week as well in his second of three consecutive wins at TPC Deere Run so you know you gotta go low!
This event was first played in 1971 (not as this course) and was won by former PGA TOUR Comissioner Deane Beaman. As was the second event!
The event moved to TPC Deere Run in 2000 so that’s how far back our history lesson will take us this week.
The last 10 events have seen five, first-time TOUR winners.
There are four previous champions in the field this week: Stricker (2009-2011); Jonathan Byrd (2007); John Senden (2006); Sean O’Hair (2005).
Young Guns versus Middle Guns versus Old Guns
In 29 events on TOUR in 2012, the “Young” folks have regained first place on the back of Leishman and Ted Potter, Jr. in two of the last three weeks and four of the last five weeks in the season-long battle with the “Middle” guys on Tour at 14-13-2. The “Old” folks are woefully behind.
For the “Young”, age during their victory in ( ), Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24), Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan TWICE (29) Rory McIlroy (22), Justin Rose (31), Rickie Fowler (23), Dustin Johnson (27), Webb Simpson (26), Marc Leishman (29) and now Ted Potter, Jr. (28) are your winners.
The “Middle” guys are Mark Wilson (37), George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods THRICE (36), Bubba Watson (33), Carl Pettersson (34), Ben Curtis (34), Matt Kuchar (33), Jason Dufner TWICE (35) and Zach Johnson (36).
Steve Stricker (44) and Phil Mickelson (41) are the only “Old” guys to hit the board in 2012.
So What? So Let’s Dance!
TPC Deere Run will play as a putter’s delight this week as it has since its inception in 2000. To take home the trophy this week players will have to hole their share of putts and avoid bogeys as scores will have to remain low to contend. The worst, 72-hole total since 2000 has been 268 (four times), which equates to 16-under-par. Bogeys are like doubles and pars on par-fives are even worse. Steve Stricker made three bogeys here last year en route to victory. Stricker has won the last three events by putting lights-out on these Bentgrass greens. Last year alone he gained over 5 strokes putting for the four days. Putting is the most important factor because the greens are big enough, on average 8,000 square feet, for guys to hit from almost anywhere. Hit it close and you’ll be able to make birdies as the green complexes around the holes have ranked over the years some of the easiest on TOUR. If you don’t’ get them close, you’ll have to run in a few bombs just to keep up with the Strickers, er, Joneses on Sunday. It will come down to who can handle the flat stick to determine this week’s winner.
The 15 players who I think will make the most noise, as always, in order.
Steve Stricker: You really didn’t expect anyone else, right? Last year, in my weekly fantasy league the guy with the first pick tried to out-think everyone and selected Zach Johnson. Johnson finished T3 so all was not lost but needless to say he took some heavy abuse after Stricker holed that 25-footer for birdie and the win on 18 on Sunday. The interesting point in regards to Stricker is this will be the first time in four that he has played this event with a warm-up week before hand. In his last three years this tournament has been his first event back after the U.S. Open. His worst round in his last three years was level par in round one in 2009. He’s fired 60,61,62,63 and 64 in those three events as well. Sure, it’s not 59, but it is three-straight titles.
Zach Johnson: The CPIC champion has a stellar record in the Quad Cities in this event over the last three seasons as he finished T3 (2010), T21 (2009) and T2 (2008). He shocked the fantasy world, just like Tiger Woods did last week, after his MC at FESJC the week following his win at Colonial. His last two outings, T41 (U.S. Open) and T64 (Travelers), don’t point to him flying in on form but his previous rounds at TPC Deere Run help ease that burden. Plus, this is as close as the Iowan will get to a home game and he’s played here every year since 2002 and wants to give his fans a show.
Sean O’Hair: He’s made the cut in 14 of 16 events this year and is coming off his second-best finish last week at The Greenbrier Classic (T7). The 2005 champion hasn’t played here since 2008 (MC) but he led the field last week with 21 birdies so I know he’s dialed in. He’s 12th on TOUR in birdie average and that will come in handy this week. Random fact: two of his four victories on TOUR have come in the month of July.
Ryan Palmer: In his last six events Palmer has been on fire minus his MC at THE PLAYERS. His run started with a T4 (Zurich) and he followed his MC with T9, T5, T3 and T15. His putter is the main reason as he sits currently 10th on TOUR in strokes gained-putting and is 21st in birdie-or-better conversion percentage. His history here isn’t spectacular but this run-of-form cannot be ignored in this field.
Carl Pettersson: The RBC Heritage champion also knocked off his U.S. Open rust last week at The Greenbrier Classic finishing a respectable T17 after his opening round one-over-par 71. This man destroys par-fours and is 15th in birdie-or-better conversion percentage. The part I like best is he is ninth in total putting. His best finish in six starts here is fifth in 2007.
Jonathan Byrd: The 2007 champion looked like his rust from the U.S. Open was non-existent last week at The Greenbrier Classic as he opened with 64-68. He faded a bit on the weekend with a pair of 70’s to finish T22. Byrd is 24th in strokes-gained putting. He’s made the cut in six of his last seven events; four of those six finishes have been T12 or better. All aboard!
Daniel Summerhays: Welcome to the list, kid! Last week Summerhays found himself in the “Dark Horses” category and he made me proud by finishing in fifth place solo. His closing-round 64 was tied, second-best of the day, behind fellow “Dark Horse” Roberto Castro’s 63. His last four tournaments have seen him finish T4, MC, T17 and fifth. His numbers don’t jump off the page but he is 12th in GIR so he will get plenty of chances to hole putts this week. I’m sticking with the hot-hand here!
Jeff Overton: After three-straight MC from THE PLAYERS through CPIC, Overton’s game is rounding into shape. In his last 16 rounds, he’s only fired over-par three times yet sadly for him two of those included 78 and 79. The good news is he has found a way to stay focused and in those last four tournaments he’s finished T38 (Memorial), T13 (FESJC), T22 (AT&T) and T17 last week at The Greenbrier. In his only three starts here he’s hit the board at T24, T41 and T10 so he’s not uncomfortable at TPC Deere Run. Overton is currently 13th in birdie-or-better conversion percentage on TOUR.
Brendon de Jonge: Another week, another trip to the top 15. He’s now made 12 cuts on the bounce and 18 of 21 on the season. He’s finished T7, T7 in the last two “Steve Stricker Invitationals” so I’m not worried about him finding his way back after T52 last week at The Greenbrier. He’s currently second on TOUR in birdies this season and his excellent ball-striking will give him plenty of chances to add to that this week.
John Senden: Speaking of ruthless ball-strikers, Senden, the 2006 champion, should thrive this week after posting T10 in his last outing, the U.S. Open. This place will look like the Simpson Desert compared to Olympic Club. He’s fifth in GIR and is 10th in scoring average. Senden’s accuracy with his iron play will be the difference maker for him this week.
Tim Clark: Clark rebounded from a MC at the U.S. Open to fire four rounds under par at the Travelers for his best finish, T4, of 2012. Clark looks like the injury bug is behind him and he’ll be happy to see TPC Deere Run where in three starts he’s finished T7 (2010), T18 (2008) and second (2007). Horse for course on top of a great outing last time has Clark on the list this week.
Charley Hoffman: In his last two visits to TPC Deere Run Hoffman has hit the top 15 with T7 in 2010 and T15 in 2009. After his T2 at the Travelers Hoffman finished T22 (AT&T) and T67 last week but his excellent ball striking (16th) will give him plenty of chances to improve on his top 10 ranking of birdies made in 2012. Hoffman ranks 12th on TOUR in par four birdie-or-better leaders.
Scott Piercy: In the 11 times he’s made the cut in 19 events in 2012, Piercy has hit the top 25 nine times. The downside is that he’s only had one top ten. The upside is that six of those finishes are inside the top 18. After coming off consecutive MC Piercy found himself T12 last week after making absolutely nothing on the greens. Trust me, I had him in my fantasy league last week and was following shot-by-shot. He admittedly struggled with his wedge play last week but he has no problem bombing it close and should have multiple chances this week to redeem his putting game.
Ken Duke: Duke has finished his last three events T7, T47 and T7 so I know he’s feeling it. Sadly for Duke, back-to-back double bogeys on 15 and 16 last week at the Greenbrier cost him a few bucks as he was just one back of the lead at the time. Duke has been around the block enough to not let that affect him and should enjoy the Bentgrass greens again this week at TPC Deere Run.
S.Y. Noh: The youngster has made 10 cuts in his last 10 events and TPC Deere Run should set up nicely for the budding star. He ranks 33rd in total putting and hits plenty of GIR. In his last four events, his worst finish was T27 last week at The Greenbrier as he accumulated T7 (FESJC), T18 (Travelers) and T4 (AT&T). This course has seen its share of first-time winners and there’s no doubt Noh could add his name to the list. It’s only a matter of time. He has too much game.
Guys that might not jump off the page but are worth a look this week.
Brian Gay: This is the weekly “horse for course” pick in this segment as Gay has broken par once in his last five tournaments. The reason Gay makes this list is because he’s a fantastic putter (4th in total putting) and has an excellent history at TPC Deere Run. In his last three events here Gay has finished T9 (2011), T12 (2008) and T18 (2007) so he would be a decent investment in deeper drafts. He’ll need to break par more than once this week to contend.
Martin Flores: Another very solid putter, Flores also showed off his short-game skills last week at The Greenbrier to finish sixth. His sixth-place finish was in spite of his T52 GIR and yet he only carded five bogeys. Flores currently ranks ninth in strokes gained-putting and is obviously flying high with his best-ever TOUR finish last week.
Kevin Chappell: The “U.S. Open Machine” the last two years (T10 2011, T3 2010) is currently on his best run of form in his short TOUR career. He followed his T10 at Olympic Club with T58 at AT&T which was hindered by two doubles and a triple, and rebounded last week with T17 which also included a double on Sunday. He’s close.
Brian Harman: His promotion to the big list last week was looking quite good until he blew up on Sunday with 76 to drop 32 spots on the leaderboard. His last three outings have found him finishing T24, T11 and T69 with one bad round so I’m giving him another shot to add to his birdie total (21st on TOUR).
Plowing the back 40
The weekend might find these players test-driving some of the John Deere equipment or touring the museum.
Charles Howell III: His record here is awfully good but his recent play hasn’t been. In his last seven events, CH III has MC four times and his best finish was T27 (FESJC). The usually-steady Howell III has only hit the top 10 once and the top 25 five times in 2012. He could be this
Ted Potter, Jr.: He played the golf of his life in his first-career TOUR win last week as he finished 64-64 and then won a three-hole playoff. No mere mortal could possibly keep up that pace but that’s what it’s going to take this week just to contend. If he does it again this week, his legend will grow even more.
Jimmy Walker: He’s an excellent putter but he struggled last week at a place he had been excellent the last two years. Walker has made two cuts from five here and best finish at TPC Deere Run was T39 in 2009.
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: The John Deere Classic (Glass’s Picks)
Group 1: Steve Stricker
Group 2: Ryan Palmer
Group 3: Tim Clark
Group 4: Vaughn Taylor
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: Scottish Open (Glass’s Picks)
Group 1: Luke Donald
Group 2: Matteo Manassero
Group 3: Marc Warren
Group 4: Thornbjorn Olesen
Ned said, “…
Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf. He’s had documented success in Yahoo!’s game for years. Even if you’re confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read. Now, Ned also provides us with his Golf Channel fantasy game selections as well!
Full Disclosure: I am NOT Ned! He’s smarter and better looking!
Steve Stricker-- He has won the last three editions of the John Deere Classic and there is no way that you should fade him this week.
Zach Johnson-- As somewhat of a local product, Johnson really wants to win the John Deere and in recent years he has come close with a T2 in '09 and a T3 last year.
Sean O'Hair, Charles Howell III, Kyle Stanley
Tim Clark-- He seems to rounding back into form with made cuts in four of his last five starts and his last outing resulted in T4 at the Travelers. Clark has two tops-10s (second place in '07 and a T7 in '10) in three career starts at the John Deere.
Charley Hoffman-- He finished well back in the field at last week's Greenbrier Classic, but before that he was playing pretty well with the highlight being a T2 at the Travelers. His recent history of a T15 in '09 and a T7 in '10 nails down a spot on this week's roster.
Ken Duke-- He was in the hunt for the title last week at the Greenbrier until a pair of late final round double-bogeys dropped him into a T7 finish, which amazingly is his fifth T7 of the season.
Brendon de Jonge-- There seemed to carryover from his disappointing final round of the AT&T National into his first round of the Greenbrier. He played well the rest of the week, so I'm expecting for him to continue his hot play at the John Deere, where he has tied for seventh place the last two years.
Ryan Palmer, Bryce Molder, Ryan Moore, Brian Davis
Jonathan Byrd-- He came out red hot last week at the Greenbrier, but it seemed like the summer cold he was fighting finally drained him and he faded to T22 result. He won this event in '07 and that combined with his recent hot play makes him an easy choice this week.
Jeff Overton-- It's tempting to take the hot rookie Seung-yul Noh, but I'm giving the nod to Overton because he is rounding into form and he has had some success at the John Deere.
Seung-yul Noh, John Senden, Carl Pettersson, Scott Piercy, John Daly
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: The John Deere Classic (Ned’s Picks)
Group 1: Steve Stricker
Group 2: Sean O’Hair
Group 3: Tim Clark
Group 4: Chris Riley
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: Scottish Open (Ned’s Picks)
Group 1: Luke Donald
Group 2: Padraig Harrington
Group 3: Henrik Stenson
Group 4: Mark Foster
“And another thing…”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with GolfChannel.com's Ryan Ballengee on Wednesday, July 18th at NOON ET. They will be breaking down the field at The Open Championship and the True South Classic and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.