On the PGA Tour this week, we arrive in Silvis, Illinois, for the John Deere Classic, the penultimate event before the third major of the year, the British Open. This event has been part of the PGA Tour schedule since 1972, and in that time has been hosted by three different courses, however since 2000 it has been held at TPC Deere Run, giving us a clear idea of course form. The John Deere Classic has grabbed a lot of headlines in the past, most notably when teenage female golfer Michelle Wie received a Sponsor’s Exemption in both 2005 & 2006, in the hope of making the cut in a men’s professional event, this however wasn’t to be for the then 15 year old as she missed the cut both times, as well as having to withdrew in 2006 citing “heat exhaustion”. Apart from this the golf tournament itself has seen a mixed list of past winners, including Master’s champion Zach Johnson and 3-time winner Steve Stricker, whilst also providing 1st time victories for both John Senden and Mark Hensby, both of Australia. Stricker was in fact going for four consecutive back-back victories at the same event after winning three times in a row between 2009-2011, however fell shy last year, coming in a tie for 5th.
To win at the John Deere Classic, you’re going to have to shoot extremely low, much like this weeks European counterpart, the Scottish Open. The one factor that may play on punters minds when backing players for the British Open this year, is if they tee it up here at the John Deere Classic, as not only is it a completely different style of golf to the Open, but the Quad Cities are also six time-zones away from the United Kingdom, which may be a key factor. To counter some of the golfers fears, and attract more players to the field the John Deere Classic itself organises a chartered flight that leaves Sunday night (local time) and arrives in the United Kingdom the following morning. In summary this doesn’t seem in any way good preparation for the Open and you may want to keep that in the back of your head when looking ahead to next week. You could however make a case against that point when looking at 2012, as last years John Deere Classic winner Zach Johnson and 4th placed John Senden, did finish T9 and T34 respectively at the Open last year, so it may not be completely harmful to the players chances, and will just come down to a players preference. There are a large amount of players who head into Muirfield next week taking the week off, and time will tell what the best approach will be. Let’s keep to this week and see how the course sets up for the birdie-fest that is the, John Deere Classic.
The Course: TPC Deere Run, 7,268 yards, par 71. This course is known typically for it’s low scoring, and that isn’t about to change. The course ranked 42nd of 49 in difficulty last season, and it will be similar again this year, although it’s a clever course set up the flags are there to be attacked, and birdies are to be had. There are dramatic elevation changes on several of the holes, especially on the par-4 14th, which measures 358 yards, but can de driveable if the conditions suit. To put it simply, this is a course that is to be taking advantage of, and players high in the Scoring Average and Total Birdies will be well worth a look, alongside good Greens in Regulation percentages and decent Putting stats. Last year Zach Johnson was 2nd in Strokes-Gained Putting and 3rd in Total Putts whilst being 26th and lower in categories such as Greens in Regulation and Driving Accuracy, so playing well with the flatstick will as ever boost your chances of winning this week.
Defending Champion: Zach Johnson. Johnson halted Steve Strickers streak at three wins, and stopped him from matching Tiger Woods record of four consecutive wins at the same event. Before winning last year Zach Johnson was coming into the week with form figures of T2, T21 & T3 at his last three previous outings at the John Deere Classic so his win did not come as a shock, with only the fact that he stopped Steve Stricker from winning coming as a slight surprise en route to his win in 2012. As mentioned above Johnson was hot with the putter this time last year, and he will keen to find that again, especially ahead of the Open next week. Johnson did have to beat Troy Matteson in a play-off, and did so when he got a birdie on the 2nd extra hole. Going into the final round, Matteson led Johnson by four shots, and had held the lead since the very first round, so Johnson had to dig deep and show his class on day four, 12 months ago. He has not been at his best in 2013, however he did have a 3rd place finish at the Crowne Plaza, another event he has enjoyed great success in, and won that he won last year before winning here at the John Deere Classic. With that in mind I can’t see Zach Johnson not being involved come Sunday and even at 18/1 (Coral & StanJames) he does look a good bet again this week.
I am looking to find a winner as ever this week, but more importantly to at least achieve some profit, there has been a lack of this in recent times on the PGA Tour and hopefully that can change here. Although it will take a brave man to be against hot favourite Steve Stricker (7/1) that is exactly what I plan to do. Much like many others weeks, when there’s such a short priced favourite in the field some great value can be found, and this week is no exception. I do believe that although Stricker has more than an obvious chance of winning, he can be beat and here’s three players that I’m going with to do just that. These are my selections for the 2013 John Deere Classic.
Zach Johnson 18/1 (Coral & StanJames) 4pts win: I’ve mentioned almost everything that needs to be said when looking at Zach Johnson’s chances this week, and will just elaborate briefly as to why he’s my main selection here for the John Deere Classic. Apart from Steve Stricker, Johnson has been the stand out player in recent years here, with form figures of 1st, T3, T21 and T2 in his last four outings at TPC Deere Run and although he is out of form I certainly expect him to find it this week. There has been one highlight in in an otherwise disappointing season for the former Masters champion, and that was his 3rd place finish at the Crowne Plaza Invitational. As I pointed out previously, before winning the John Deere Classic last year, Johnson won the Crowne Plaza Invitational, and it seems he manage to grasp enough confidence from that to go well again at the Crowne Plaza this year even out of form, so I’m banking on him doing the same here. At almost 3x times the price of Stricker this week I think Johnson is worth backing and that’s one of the big factors behind putting him in this week, it’s certainly a case of all or nothing for him this week and also for anyone like me who’s backing him to get himself back on track.
Brendon De Jonge 50/1 (Coral) 1pt e/w: De Jonge is an absolute Birdie machine and has been for several years on the PGA Tour, and yet he’s still looking for his first Tour victory, can he get it here at the John Deere Classic? I for one think he can, and his past form suggests he might well be able to as well. In his last four outings here he’s finishes, T19, T7, T7 and missed a cut, so he certainly knows how to climb the leaderboard. As he is every year, he’s right up there in Total Birdies, lying in 2nd place behind form man Billy Horschel and is also 10th in Scoring Average (actual) so he is certainly the type of player that enjoys player TPC Deere Run. This may be his best shot at a victory on the PGA Tour and I feel he has eventually got to get over the line. I am a big fan of his and I hope this week he finally puts it all together and gets over the line. He has two top-10 finishes so far this season, a T6 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and a T9 at the RBC Heritage, so he has been involved at the top at points this year and there’s no reason why he can’t be in the mix again this week. He will need to find his putting stroke this week, and if he does that I see him as a real contender at 50/1
John Senden 50/1 (StanJames) 1pt e/w: At 50/1 John Senden caught my eye this week, with good form here at this course, and his win at this event back in 2006. He has had a mixed start to the season, with no top 10s, however he has had some good finishes, including his T15 at the U.S Open and his T30 at the Greenbrier Classic last time out. He was 4th here in 2012 and has also came T12 in 2010, so he can certainly score well at TPC Deere Run. He seems good value this week and although he hasn’t set the Tour alight so far in 2013, this may be the kick start he needs to get his season going, and I can certainly see him going well this week. At 50/1 he’s certainly worth having on side and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him add to his previous victory.
Matt Jones 66/1 (General) 1pt e/w: Not only did Matt Jones finish T2 last week at the Greenbrier Classic, but he’s also had two good finishes at TPC Deere Run and that might be enough to carry over his confidence from last week. Jones finished two shots adrift of eventual winner Jonas Blixt last week a the Greenbrier Classic, and this is by far his best performance in 2013, coming just a month after his previous best finish T6 at the Memorial Tournament. Although you have to go back to 2010 since he made the cut here at the John Deere he did finish 5th that year, following up from his T5 in 2009, so he does know how to score well at this course and hopefully he can do that this time around. As I say, he did miss the cut in 2011 and 2012 but on both occasions he was coming into the week with four straight missed cuts, a very different story to this year. He currently ranks 24th in Scoring Average (actual) and 40th in Total Birdies which I pointed out could be telling points this week, and should his putting click he could be definitely be one to watch here in Illinois. He will look to draw confidence from fellow Australians John Senden and Mark Hensby who have both won in the past, pre Steve Stricker’s run and Jones will be hoping to fly the Australian flag once again, in what has already been a successful year for the country thanks to Adam Scott’s win at Augusta. To me he is worth a second look at 66/1 especially when you consider his T2 last week, on top of his previous showings here and I am happy to have him onside.
Points staked on the PGA Tour this week: 10
Total points staked this week (inc European Tour): 22
Profit/Loss for 2013: 105.9
Another week on the PGA Tour, and another week we live in hope that lady luck will again be on our side this time around. We have come close in recent weeks, with Scott Stallings and Bubba Watson both throwing away chances to win, and I’m hoping we won’t see that this week. It will be good to get some nice profit in before another exciting major week, at the Open in 9 days time. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @TomJacobs8