JOHN DEERE CLASSIC
Winner's Share: 1.044M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Silvis, Ill.
Course: TPC Deere Run
2017 champion: Bryson DeChambeau
Every year, the hospitable folks in the nation's heartland offer any golfer heading to the Open Championship a free ticket on a chartered plane to get there. The catch is, they have to play in the John Deere Classic. Despite the very generous offer, they never seem to need a very large plane (don't worry -- those of you here for actual DFS information, we're just about done with the joke portion of this story). The John Deere Classic often is the target of jokes in golf circles, such as, "Is this a major or the John Deere Classic?" But you'd be hard-pressed to find a community more devoted to its golf tournament than the Quad Cities is to the Deere. There aren't many sporting events in this area of Illinois/Iowa, certainly not before college football season starts.
This year, there will be at least 15 golfers in the 156-man field who will board that charter on Sunday night and arrive in Scotland on Monday morning. That seems like a lot, and it could be one more if someone not already in the field for Carnoustie finishes in the top five. Despite the seemingly large number of trans-Atlantic travelers, only four of them are in the top 50 in the world rankings, led by surprise entrant and No. 15 Francesco Molinari, who will be making his tournament debut. Two weeks ago, Molinari added the Quicken Loans National to beef up his FedEx Cup points total but, despite winning in a runaway, he apparently thinks it's not beefy enough. It's certainly a curious decision, as the red-hot Molinari has a chance to make some real noise in the year's third major. Of course, he still could, as Zach Johnson plays the Deere every year, like he did in 2015 when he went on to win at St. Andrews. Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau (ranked 22nd), Kyle Stanley (38th) and Si Woo Kim (48th) complete the top-50 contingent, with Johnson just outside at No. 51. Of course, favorite son Steve Stricker will be back, looking for a fourth Deere title. He's still the last golfer on the PGA Tour to three-peat, winning at TPC Deere Run each year from 2009-11.
The tournament's first champion, in 1971, was future Tour commissioner Deane Beman, who doubled up the next year. Everybody's favorite, Roger Maltbie, won in 1975, when none other than former Johnny Carson sidekick Ed McMahon began a five-year run as tournament host. In 2000, the event moved to Deere Run, site of one of a handful of 59s in PGA Tour annals, which Paul Goydos notched in the first round in 2010. Unfortunately for Goydos, Stricker was right behind that day with a 60, en route to a tourney-record 26-under-par. That perfectly illustrates the annual track meet that is the John Deere Classic.
The winning score is generally north of 20-under -- DeChambeau won at 18-under last year; still pretty close -- so this is the quintessential birdie-fest. Twelve of the 18 holes played under par last year, so the golfers will need to zero in with their approach shots and make plenty of putts. Somewhat surprisingly, Deere Run was only the 13th easiest track among the 50 on Tour last year. The most exciting hole is the drivable 358-yard 14th, playing downhill to a tiny green. The hardest, as it is most years, is the par-4, 476-yard 18th.
Weather-wise, the forecast called for hot and sticky conditions all four days, though without much chance of rain except for Saturday, and minimal wind.
*Fun fact: Organizers tried to attract attention about a dozen years ago, when Michelle Wie was given a sponsor’s exemption two years in a row. She was inside the cut line in 2005 until late double bogey/bogey did her in. The following year, far outside the cut line, Wie withdrew, citing the excessive heat.
Key Stats to Winning at TPC Deere Run (in order of importance)
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Putting average/strokes gained putting
• Proximity to the hole
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained approach
• Birdie or better percentage (BOB)/bogey avoidance
2017 - Bryson DeChambeau
2016 - Ryan Moore
2015 - Jordan Spieth
2014 - Brian Harman
2013 - Jordan Spieth
2012 - Zach Johnson
2011 - Steve Stricker
2010 - Steve Stricker
2009 - Steve Stricker
2008 - Kenny Perry
Looking back over the last eight events, the winner here has been in the top 10 in putting seven times, with only Harman (31st) missing out. Some very good putters have won this tournament, and even Harman is one of them. Interestingly, only two of the eight winners finished top-10 in greens in regulation, and Harman was again one of those. Proximity to the hole is a good indicator, and seven of the eight champs were in the top 16. The only one who missed is the last name you'd come up with -- Spieth. So all these good putters have also put themselves in good position to make said putts.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Bryson DeChambeau - $11,400 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 12-1)
The best thing about DeChambeau's win at the Memorial -- his second on Tour after taking the Deere last year -- is that he didn't take a step back or lose any momentum. He followed that up with a T25 at the U.S. Open and then a tie for ninth at the Travelers. DeChambeau's strength is tee to green (ranked 16th in strokes gained: tee to green), but he's also T35 in proximity and a respectable 52nd in strokes gained: putting.
Zach Johnson - $11,200 (12-1)
This isn't rocket science: Johnson has amassed seven top-5s through the years at the Deere, including a tie for fifth last year. He has continued to perform well at Deere Run even while his overall game has slipped. Still, Johnson has finished top-20 in his past two starts, including the U.S. Open.
Joaquin Niemann - $10,400 (16-1)
The teenager's price keeps going up, but it's hard to argue against riding the train. Since turning pro after the Masters, Niemann has four top-10s, including last week at The Greenbrier.
Ryan Moore - $10,2h00 (16-1)
Moore missed the cut last year as the defending champion, ending a run of eight straight cashes in the event. This is far from Moore's best season, but he's coming off two recent T13s -- last week at The Greenbrier and also at the Memorial. Moore is ranked 24th in strokes gained: approach and 13th tee to green.
Tier 2 Values
Kyle Stanley - $9,700 (20-1)
Stanley cost $9,600 last year, which perfectly illustrates the steadiness of this guy. He's fourth in driving accuracy, fifth in greens in regulation and even 43rd in strokes gained: putting. We were surprised to see the conservative Stanley ranked 39th in birdie or better percentage. Stanley has four top-25s and has made seven cuts in his last eight trips to Deere Run.
Chesson Hadley - $9,500 (25-1)
Hadley went through a mini-slump in June with a tie for 40th followed by two missed cuts, but he opened July with another top-10 at TPC Potomac. Hadley is ranked fourth in strokes gained: approach, eighth in proximity and 20th in putting. He's also ninth in birdie or better, and he tied for 25th a year ago.
Wesley Bryan - $9,100 (40-1)
Bryan tied for third last year at Deere Run and was tied for eighth the year before in only his third Tour event. He certainly is struggling this year with only one to-25, but it came last month in Memphis and he just missed another last week at the Greenbrier (T26). Bryan's game is significantly stronger close to the hole, as he's ranked 15th in strokes gained: around the green, T23 in proximity and 23rd in putting.
Patrick Rodgers - $8,800 (50-1)
Rodgers has spoken of his fondness for Deere Run, which counts for a lot here and surely contributed to him being runner-up to DeChambeau last year. He averages more than 300 yards per drive, although he’s not especially accurate. Rodgers' forte is his putting, which should serve him well this week -- he is ranked 15th in strokes gained: putting.
Tier 3 Values
Tyler Duncan - $7,600 (80-1)
The Indiana native has run off nine straight cuts to climb to 115th in the standings. Duncan is ranked top-50 in strokes gained: off the tee, approach and greens in regulation heading into his Deere debut. He's 71st in proximity.
Chez Reavie - $7,500 (50-1)
Reavie arrives ranked sixth in driving accuracy, 13th in proximity, 32nd in strokes gained: approach, 41st in tee to green and 60th in putting -- all-star numbers in this field. You could say Reavie is slumping, having missed three of his past for cuts, but that one cash was a tie for sixth at Memphis last month. Reavie is also 50th in birdie or better percentage.
Bronson Burgoon - $7,500 (80-1)
Burgoon is getting close to the top 125, currently at No. 134. He took a big jump with a T6 two weeks ago at TPC Potomac. Last week, he opened with three rounds in the 60s before tumbling down the leaderboard with a poor final round and finishing T30. Burgoon is ranked 45th in greens in regulation and 64th in birdie or better rate.
Brandon Harkins - $7,300 (100-1)
Harkins made seven of his last eight cuts, albeit with nothing better than last week's tie for 30th at The Greenbrier. He's ranked an impressive 14th in birdie or better, though, and 54th in strokes gained: putting.
Seamus Power - $7,100 (100-1)
Power tied for 25th last year in his John Deere debut. He's been one of the top putters on Tour all season and is currently ranked 18th. Power is also 28th in scrambling. He sits exactly 125th in the FedEx Cup point standings.
Denny McCarthy - $7,000 (150-1)
McCarthy made four his past five cuts, with the one miss coming amid the pressure of having to play in his hometown event at TPC Potomac. The Tour rookie is ranked 27th in strokes gained: putting.
Vaughn Taylor - $6,900 (150-1)
Taylor missed the cut last week at The Greenbrier, but he had made four straight cuts before that, two of them top-20 finishes. He also was T19 last year at the Deere. Taylor is ranked 28th in proximity, 49th in birdie or better and 59th in strokes gained: approach.
Stuart Appleby - $6,600 (Field, 11-2)
Appleby of course is far from the apex of his game, but he has continued to perform decently at Deere Run. Appleby has made four straight cuts in this event, two of them top-25s, including last year's T25. Now 47, Appleby has teed it up only eight times this season, with one of them resulting in a tie for 12th last month at Memphis.