Site: John Deere Classic; Silvis, IL
Course: TPC Deer Run; Par 71, 7,268 Yards
Purse: $5.8 Million; Winner’s Share: $1 Million
TV: Thursday-Friday: 4-7pm (GOLF); Saturday-Sunday: 1-2:45pm (GOLF), 3-6pm (CBS).
Radio: PGATour Radio
Defending Champion: Bryson Dechambeau
The PGA Tour heads to Silvis, Illinois for the 49th installment of the John Deere Classic. Last year, we witnessed the rise of a new young star on the Tour, Bryson Dechambeau. The “Mad Scientist” closed with a 6-under 65 to sneak past Stanford grad Patrick Rodgers by one shot.
While some players will have already made the journey across the pond to start preparations for the British Open, the John Deere Classic provides a last-gasp chance for those who have not qualified. If someone (who is not already exempt) finishes in the top 5 this week, they will secure a place in the field next week at Carnoustie.
For those playing this week, going low will be the key. The worst score to win this tournament in the past 40 years is 268, or 16 under. TPC Deer Run provides plentiful birdie opportunities, so expect to see many scores in the low 60s.
Unfortunately, we are seeing a pretty Week field this week. Not one of the top 14 golfers is teeing it up this week. Francesco Molinari, currently ranked 15th after his victory at the Quicken Loans National, is the highest rated golfer. A field devoid of top talent will certainly lead to an interesting fight among those who haven’t qualified for the Open yet.
Let’s take a look at the course the players will be tackling this week:
The Course: TPC Deer Run: Par 71, 7,268 Yards
TPC Deer Run is aptly named after a relatively harmless animal. This course plays as one of the easiest on the entire Tour. There is hardly any water on the course, and it’s not too tight either. Frankly, I’d be shocked if the winner doesn’t come close to -20 this week. Don’t get me wrong; this is a beautiful golf course. It’s an excellent venue, just not one of the most difficult (cough cough, Shinnecock).
The two standout holes from the front nine are #4 and #9.
Number 4 is fairly pedestrian in distance, just 454 yards, but its distinct feature is a giant oak tree splitting the fairway in two. The green is perched atop one of the highest points on the course. Missing the green leaves players with extremely difficult shots.
Number 9 is a fantastic par-4. The longest of the front nine 4s at 503 yards, #9 is the perfect challenge as players make the turn. The tee shot isn’t difficult, but the forest near the green creates a cramped approach shot. What makes the second shot even more difficult is the narrow, elevated green. Par is a good score here.
The two best holes on the back nine are #14 and #16.
Number 14 is a risk/reward hole, my favorite type. It’s the shortest par-4 on the property, measuring 361 yards. However, it is driveable for some of the longest hitters because it plays downhill. There is a “Valley of Sin” short of the green that produces a blind second shot to the green. Going over the green is a recipe for disaster, as a 60-foot bluff awaits you. Anything from eagle to double bogey will be made here this week.
Number 16 is known as the signature hole at TPC Deer Run. It’s a short, 158 yard par-3 that is all carry. The green is guarded by a “shale outcropping” and a cavernous bunker on the left. Another gigantic bunker flanks the right side of the green. The Rock River comes into view on the left, but it shouldn’t come in to play.
This might be an unfair statement, but the lack of star power is apparent when Wesley Bryan qualifies as a favorite. Still, the former trick shot artist has done quite well for himself on the Tour. He finished 3rd here last year, and he is no stranger to going low. I think he qualifies for his second straight British Open with another good showing at the John Deere.
Si Woo Kim
Si Woo has flown under the radar this year since his triumph at the Players in 2017 and his impressive performance in the Presidents Cup. However, he does have 4 top 10s this year, and I think he’s going to break out in a big way this week. He’ll have to lean on his short game (12th in Strokes Gained: Around the Green) this week if he wants to qualify for the Open.
Well, I picked the Chilean sensation a couple of weeks ago, the week after his near-victory, and he missed the cut. I’m hoping this week will be a bit better. In 9 tournaments this year, he has four top 10s and four missed cuts. He’s a little sink-or-swim. I think he’ll swim this week.
Harold Varner III
Varner has not had the greatest 2018, but it’s always good to pick people when they are hot. Varner had his best finish of the season last week at the Greenbrier where he finished T-5. I think he keeps the ball rolling here with another solid finish.
This is certainly not one of the more star-studded PGA Tour events. We won’t see any Dustin Johnson v Justin Thomas duels, but we will be treated to some absurdly low scores. If you need a nice warmup for the Open, the John Deere Classic will certainly provide some excitement.