While only one week remaining before the year’s third major, the PGA TOUR heads to Silvis, Illinois, for some prep work at the John Deere Clasic.
The course is TPC Deere Run, a mid-length par 71 without much bite to it. If the PGA TOUR was a video game, this would be one of the pre-loaded beginner courses. The fairways are easy to hit and the greens are easy to hit. It really comes down to a wedge and short-game competition, unless you’re spraying the ball all over the ballpark.
Just how easy is the tee-to-green challenge? Over the last five years, the field has averaged 65%+ fairways hit on 12 (of 14) possible driving holes. Four of those holes surrender a field average driving distance of less than 275 yards, so golfers can club down quite a bit when needed. As for hitting greens, the field has averaged a GIR percentage of 65% or higher on 15 holes at TPC Deere Run. Since the field is hitting 2/3 of their greens, it makes sense that the elite ball-strikers would lose some of their edge and instead a short-game festival pops up.
Translated to a statistical point-of-view, I’m targeting driving accuracy (distance from edge of fairway) and strokes gained putting, way more than usual this week. That’s not hard since I rarely weight either of those stats heavily on a week-to-week basis.
For weather this week, it looks like early-week thunderstorms could soften the course come tournament time, but the actual tournament window looks clear with highs in the mid 80s and nothing notable in the wind department. Probably not ideal prep for anyone that is set to make the chartered flight to Royal Birkdale at week’s end.
Looking for correlated events, a lot of courses that can’t be overpowered popped up. The one that showed the strongest correlations were TPC Sawgrass, Sedgefield CC, Waialae CC, Colonial CC, and Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course.
Have a look at the Fantasy Golfanac for more tournament history and golfer quotes.
Players to Watch
Steve Stricker… A three-time winner here and he enters with top 20s in three of his last five starts (4-of-6 if you count the Zurich team event). Never a sexy pick but TPC Deere Run is not a course that can easily be overpowered, making Stricker one of the favorites, if not THEE favorite.
Zach Johnson… Can’t talk about the John Deere Classic without mentioning the hometown hero, ZJ. He calls this his fifth major and biggest event of the season. Has six podium finishes here in his last eight attempts, including a 2012 win. COURSE HORSE.
Kevin Kisner… He’s admittedly raw in the world of major championship prep, making just his 11th start in a major next week. He’s going to give the whole “play the week before” a try. He took that same route here back in 2015 and finished T35, but he’s a much-improved golfer since then. From a correlated course perspective, not many fit the bill better since Kisner crushes Colonial, Wyndham and TPC Sawgrass while also owns a pair of top 5s at the Sony Open. Coming up a MC last week, but should rebound nicely.
Ryan Moore… The defending champ but returning from a shoulder injury that forced him to sit out a month. A great course fit but I will pass.
Bubba Watson … Returning for the first time since 2010. That tells us he’s trying to play his way back into form, or he’s just trying to play a new event to appease the new PGA TOUR rule. Either way, the course is not an ideal fit, except for the par 5s. They are the perfect range to where they are not too short but also not too long to where it becomes a three-shot hole. That means big hitters like Bubba, List, HV3, etc. should be able to feast on these par 5s and score plenty of DraftKings/FanDuel points, regardless of finish. Of course, they do need to worry about making it through the cut. Given the strength of the field, that shouldn’t be a huge problem. High upside, despite the poor season form.
Daniel Berger… Plenty of course studs at the top, but Berger is making his debut. We can’t forget about him since he has a win and a runner-up in his last three starts. From a scoring perspective, he’s hit the highest percentage of approach shots inside 20 feet over the last 10 weeks (next best: Garrigus, Castro, Every, Collins, Na, Wagner, Cejka, Bryan, B Martin). With the irons dialed in, the birdies should pile up rather quickly on an easy track like TPC Deere Run.
Curtis Luck… Running out of starts to earn his TOUR card this year but he’s trending with T5 and T20 finishes in the last two weeks. The putter is scorching (+9.5 SGP over last two starts). He’s going to need that to stay hot on a course like TPC Deere Run where a shootout is likely in the cards.
Danny Lee… Another top 10 last week, despite losing 2.2 strokes putting at the Greenbrier. Looking at the statistical profile of the last 10 winners here, Danny fits the profile to a tee (medicore off-the-tee, great approach, and great putting).
Kyle Stanley… While this event is typically a putting competition, Stanley has forced his name into the conversation with aggressive play off the tee. Making his first start since the big win, so will it snowball or will he hit a wall? Only one way to find out, but his track record here suggests he should keep it rolling.
Chez Reavie… If you want to play the “just needs the putter to get hot” game then Chez looks like a killer play this week. He’s one of the straightest players off the tee which comes in handy at TPC Deere Run. Should be delivering his approach packages from the fairway time after time which is what usually sets up his signature low rounds.
Brian Harman… If you want to don’t want to play putter roulette, then Harman may be the guy for you. He shoots arrows off the tee and the flat stick is his best weapon. Oddly enough, he won here in 2014 when losing strokes on the green (-0.8 SGP that week) and also posted a T24 the following year while losing 2.4 strokes putting. He’s shown he can win here without his best weapon, so watch out if he can actually manage to get his tee-to-green AND putter on the same page.
My Top 25 for the 2017 John Deere Classic
1. Steve Stricker
2. Zach Johnson
3. Kevin Kisner
4. Danny Lee
5. Brian Harman
6. Daniel Berger
7. Kyle Stanley
8. Kevin Na
9. Charles Howell III
10. Charley Hoffman
11. Bubba Watson
12. Robert Streb
13. Ben Martin
14. Bud Cauley
15. Curtis Luck
16. Daniel Summerhays
17. Chez Reavie
18. Kevin Streelman
19. Jamie Lovemark
20. Scott Brown
21. Matt Jones
22. William McGirt
23. Smylie Kaufman
24. Ryan Palmer
25. Geoff Ogilvy