Zach Johnson
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Culp's Corner

John Deere Classic Preview

Updated On: July 10, 2019, 12:34 pm ET

The Midwest Swing comes to an end this week in Silvis, Illinois. 

It's the John Deere Classic which is known for their charter plane directly to The Open Championship. That apparently wasn't attractive enough for some of the world's best this week because they've attracted one of the weaker fields we've seen all year. 

The average joe at home may not get excited for this event but diehard gamers should be pumped because it's another week where the games rising stars get sponsor invites to showcase their skills. We saw Matthew Wolff cash in on that opportunity last week while Collin Morikawa was right behind him. Both are in the field again this week while Viktor Hovland, Doc Redman, and Justin Suh continue to hunt for their big breakthrough and full-time playing status.

It's another full field of 156 golfers with the top 70 and ties getting a chance to play the final two rounds.  

The Course

TPC Deere Run will play host to this event which has been the case since Y2K scared us all. 

The course is a par 71 that plays just under 7,300 yards. It was designed by D.A. Weibring in the late 1990s so the course is still fairly young, by golf course standards. 

The layout features some of the widest fairways on TOUR so it's no surprise to see that the field hits about 71 percent of fairways at Deere Run. The only other courses/events with lower averages are Corales, Kapalua, RSM Clasicc, and Nine Bridges. 

You would think that generous fairways would lead to bombers taking it apart but it's been the short and accurate hitters that have feasted over the years. As long as you're in the fairways here, you can attack the greens which are typically soft and receptive. 

Just looking at the scorecard from last year's winner (Michael Kim) we notice that six of the holes were definitely wedge holes with his approaches originating from inside 140 yards. He also saw approaches around 155 yards on two of the holes which suggest this course is largely about wedge work and short-iron play. Duh, it's a birdie-fest, that elite wedge play is the easiest way to set up all those scoring chances. 

When looking at the par 5s we see birdies rates of 34%, 41%, and 51% with a fair amount of eagles landing as well. You are losing shots to the field if you don't birdie at least two of the three par 5s, per round. With the par 5s accessible to all, we don't see a major advantage to length which is a theme around TPC Deere Run. 

For turf the golfers will see bentgrass fairways, kentucky bluegrass rough, and bentgrass greens. Very similar to last week at TPC Twin Cities. The greens are slightly smaller their TOUR average but the receptiveness effective makes them larger targets. They are prepped to run around 11 feet which is slow by TOUR standards. 


Correlated Courses

Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week: 

Plantation Course at Kapalua (Tourney of Champs)
Silverado Resort and Spa (Safeway Open)
TPC Scottsdale (WM Phoenix Open)
TPC Summerlin (Shriners)
PGA WEST & La Quinta (Desert Classic)

We are matching up over/underperformance on particular courses with similar scoring environments and we're left with this list.  

All of these courses/events yielded boatloads of birdies but also don't have a lot of big numbers lurking. 

If you want to take the location + grass angle then courses like TPC Twin Cities, Detroit GC, and TPC River Highlands fit that bill. Oh, it's the Midwest Swing. 


The Weather

Thursday: Mostly sunny with a high of 82 degrees. Calm winds around 7-to-12 MPH. 

Friday: Sunny with a high near 87 degrees. Calm winds around 5-to-8 MPH. 

Weekend: Temps increase into the lower 90s. At the Midwest humidity and it will be rather toasty over the weekend. 

A slight chance of storms in the lead-up but precipitation is off the forecast for the actual event right now. Fantastic. 

Golfers to Watch

Zach Johnson
This event is known as his Fifth Major. He's finished top 20 in seven of his last eight trips here with six of those doubling as top 5s. The problem? He arrives with five straight finishes of T35 or worse and no top 10s since The RSM Classic last fall. A classic dilemma of course history versus form. Which will win out? 

Viktor Hovland
His Okie State teammate stole the spotlight last week but it's Hovland who is crushing it from tee-to-green. Will his short game catch up? He's lost strokes around-the-green in four of his six measured TOUR events and lost strokes putting in five of those six. 

Sungjae Im
Continues his run of steady play with his fourth straight top 25 last week in Minnesota. It turns out he might like this Midwest Swing as it's helped him snap out of his mid-season rookie slump. If you're getting picky then you'll point out that he's lost strokes on approach in six of his last eight starts so it hasn't been perfect. 

Troy Merritt
Last week was a home game for Merritt but he's also a Northern Iowa native so TPC Deere Run isn't too far from home, either. It hasn't been too fruitful for him in the past with just one top 25 in seven tries. At the same time, he's missed the cut just twice along the way. He arrives with some boom-or-bust form (three top 20s in last seven starts but four finishes outside the top 50 in that time frame). That makes him just that, a boom-or-bust play this week in Silvis, Illinois. 

Collin Morikawa
Gained a massive 10.7 strokes on approach last week to lead the 3M Open field in that category. Was also top 15 in strokes gained off-the-tee. He's gained strokes tee-to-green in all four starts as a professional golfer. Hard to argue with that since his short game has also been around field average in the process. 

Joaquin Niemann
Whether it's the summer heat or the bentgrass greens, something has clicked back into place for the young Chilean. Niemann enters with top 35s in six straight starts. He's gained strokes in all three tee-to-green categories in five straight events. En fuego. 

Johnson Wagner
There is something about this course/region that brings out the best in Wagner. He's beat the field average by 2+ strokes in 9 of his last 24 rounds played at TPC Deere Run which is 9th most in the field this week, over the last 10 years. That has produced top 20s in four of his last five visits. An interesting sleeper but if he starts to gain popularity, he's probably an easy fade due to his baseline metrics. 

Sam Burns
The LSU product thrived in the hot-and-humid conditions last week, gaining 8.2 strokes tee-to-green at TPC Twin Cities. Should be another scorcher this week as the TOUR stays in the Midwest. Perhaps that is what Burns needs to stay in the zone. Has always flashed the go-low potential, just needs to avoid the big number. There aren't a lot of those lurking around TPC Deere Run. 

Ranking the Field 
(NOTE: Slight Adjustment made on Monday at 3:30 pm ET)

1. Sungjae Im
2. Lucas Glover
3. Charles Howell III
4. Zach Johnson
5. Collin Morikawa
6. Daniel Berger
7. Bud Cauley
8. Harold Varner III
9. Kevin Streelman
10. Viktor Hovland
11. Ryan Moore
12. Sam Burns
13. Ryan Palmer
14. Denny McCarthy
15. Matthew Wolff
16. Joaquin Niemann
17. Kevin Tway
18. Sam Ryder
19. Wyndham Clark
20. Danny Lee
21. Joel Dahmen
22. Jhonattan Vegas
23. Troy Merritt
24. Talor Gooch
25. Dylan Frittelli

Check back on Tuesday afternoon for our DFS Dish and Wednesday morning for the Expert Picks.

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