John Deere Classic Tips

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Steve Bamford's tips for the 2011 John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run, published 21:30BST 5.7.11

The PR agency that entitled the PGA Tour’s Open Championship warm-up as a Classic should be taken to the US equivalent of the Advertising Standards Authority. Linking tractor and lawnmower manufacturer John Deere to the 'Classic' tag is a stretch, but calling this long standing tournament a classic is just plain wrong! Instead, like the Bob Hope Lottery, I’m going to rename the John Deere Classic as the Tour Pro Charity Masters. I’m sure that recent Top 3 finishers Paul Goydos, Jeff Maggert, Brett Quigley and Jay Williamson will whole heartedly concur after pocketing enough dollars to keep their PGA Tour cards!

TPC Deere Run is a drag strip of a Par 71 which offers no challenge to PGA Tour pros whatsoever. Recent winning totals of -16, -20 and -25 highlight that the key to success in Illinois is simply making birdies. Indeed interestingly the past 4 winners of the tournament i.e. Byrd (07), Perry (08) and Stricker (09 & 10) all ranked in the Top 15 for Birdie Average the season they triumphed in cattle country.

The lack of quality in the field, highlighted by John Rollins being priced at 30/1, means that decent prices are extremely hard to come by. Statistically it’s difficult to argue with Steve Stricker who delivered a 28/1 return for us at Memorial in June who currently tops both the Scoring and Birdie Average stats plus is our Number 1 Predictor Model pick. However I offer a word of warning for Stricker followers who are lumping on at 7/1. Since the days of Tiger there is no such thing as a golfing certainty, and that can be highlighted by the fact that only Geoff Ogilvy has won a PGA Tour tournament at a single digit price (Kapalua 2010 at 9/1) since Tiger’s last tournament triumph at Firestone way back in August 2009. Back then Tiger won at 7/4!!!! Those heady days of domination are long gone.

Stricker, Day, Johnson, Howell III, Toms, Byrd, Cink, Slocum, Marino and Oosthuizen, plus others, are using this week as a Sandwich “warm up” and will catch the free Air John Deere charter to London straight after the tournament, but what do we make of backing Open Championship notables the week before the big one? Well it certainly hasn’t put off Steve Stricker in the past 2 years from getting the job done but in my opinion his corresponding Open finishes of 52nd and 55th have to be related. Read my Open Championship Preview for the lowdown. Any pre-Major tournament throws up a key question for me as a golf tipster. Will any player who already knows they are playing well enough to win a Major totally jeopardise their chances by winning the warm up event? Lefty may have won at Houston pre-Augusta but he badly needed that win after playing some of the worst golf of his career and the end result was 27th in the Big One.

So will Stricker, Jason Day and another potential Open contender Zach Johnson whose games are already in great nick truly go for it this week?

David Toms 1.5pt EW 25/1 with Totesport Free Bet £10 match bet, get it here: Totesport Free Bet

Toms achieved a huge ambition when winning his first PGA Tour victory since 2005 at Colonial in May. The bookmakers then slashed his odds to 12/1 for the St Jude Classic and, like night follows day, made a killing as he missed the cut. Toms was also considered a contender for the US Open at Congressional but the course never suited and again his 55/1 backers got burnt in the hype when he missed the cut. However 17th and a 12-under total at TPC River Highlands a fortnight ago showed that Toms was starting to find his feet again and I love the look of him at a decent price with Totesport when others have him as short as 18/1. Toms, in my view, won’t consider himself a true contender at Sandwich and TPC Deere Run has been good to him in the past where he won in 1997 and finished 4th in 1998. Fact is, Toms has had a renaissance over the past 24 months and he can both shoot low scores and contend on short course “drag strips” as -12/4th at Phoenix (09), -19/2nd at TPC Highlands (09), -19/2nd at Sedgefield (10) and his -15/1st at Colonial highlight. Perry and Stricker’s wins here in 2008 and 2009 followed low scoring wins at Warwick Hills and Colonial respectively and with Toms currently 5th in Actual Scoring Average, 18th in Birdie Average and 1st in Approach Shot Proximity to Hole categories. If he’s motivated to contend he’s playing too well not to feature. RESULT: W/D

Jonathan Byrd 1pt EW 28/1 with £25 matched free bet, click here:

Let’s face it, Jonathan must be made up about catching the Air John Deere charter flight to London on Sunday evening. Indeed the last 9 months have been a revelation for the South Carolina boy who lives on St Simons Island, the home of the McGladrey Classic. 5th at Annandale, 1st at TPC Summerlin, 1st at Kapalua, 10th at Doral, 2nd at Quail Hollow and 7th at Muirfield have propelled Byrd into the World’s Top 50. He won’t be expecting too much from his 2nd visit to the Open Championship (he finished 23rd on debut at Carnoustie in 07) as his latest major appearances have generated missed cuts at Augusta and Congressional. Fact is though the streaky Byrd is playing great golf right now and his results on low scoring resort courses have always been strong. Where others may choose to “throttle down” this week in Illinois, Byrd will want to keep the momentum going on a course where he finished 1st in 2007 and 2nd in 2003. He’ll fancy he can grab his 6th PGA Tour victory and Byrd, who has had a fortnight off to re-coup after Congressional, sits 24th in Birdie Average and 23rd in Actual Scoring Average on Tour in 2011, so most definitely has the fire power. RESULT: M/C

Louis Oosthuizen 1pt EW 50/1 with £25 matched free bet, click here:

So ask yourself this. Why is the Open Champion playing the week before defending the Claret Jug at Sandwich in Illinois? Avoiding Hazel Irvine is as good a reason as any and surely it can’t be the free flight across! Being serious you can only categorise Oosthuizen’s 2011 as flat. His much publicised move to the PGA Tour has only gleaned an 18th at Doral, 16th on the “drag strip” at Houston and 9th last time out at Congressional, where he hit my radar. He’s in danger of joining the “he fluked a Major” brigade. Amazingly enough he’s only played 8 PGA Tour events season to date so has to start making appearances to hit the minimum 15 tournament requirement. However I’m taking an educated punt on Louis this week on the basis that from what I saw at Congressional he is starting to find form and he also has a streaky history of going well at resort type courses especially on his favoured Bent greens. You only have to go back to just before Xmas where he finished 3rd at the South African Open with a score of -21. In the New Year he then captured the Africa Open with a winning score of -16. Prior to winning The Open last year he also finished 2nd in Morocco with -23 and won in Andalucia with -18. I reckon TPC Deere Run will suit and he will be 100% motivated to build on his current form up-swing and get a result that guarantees participation in the end of season Fed Ex Cup Play Offs where he currently sits a lowly 143rd. This could be the time where Louis steps out of Charl’s 2011 shadow. RESULT: M/C

Troy Matteson 0.75pt EW 100/1 with BetFred Free Bet Get a £50 free bet via this link: BetFred Free Bet

In a weak field Matteson stands out for me and certainly fits the “horses for courses category” and, what’s more, he’s capable of contending. Troy is slightly more than your typical PGA Tour journeyman - after all he’s won 2 PGA Tour tournaments. His first came in 2006 where he won on the Bent greens at TPC Summerlin with a score of -22, beating Crane, Chopra, Hoffman and Furyk into the bargain. Fast forward to Raptor Course in 2009 where he shot -18 to enter a play off where he saved his PGA Tour card by beating Rickie Fowler and Jamie Lovemark. That 2 year exemption has allowed Matteson to pick and choose his schedule and 2010/11 has seen progress and some decent results like 10th at TPC Deere Run (-14), 9th at Old White Course and 2nd at Puerto Rico where he shot -16, forced a play off and missed a short putt in the play off eventually losing to Michael Bradley. I remember because I tipped him at 125/1! Recent form is improving with 30th at Muirfield, 15th at St Jude and 20th last week at Aronimink, all on tracks that don’t suit the Georgia educated and based Matteson’s eye anywhere near as well as the “drag strip” set-up in Illinois this week. 3rd here in 2007 and he’d love nothing more than to make his Open Championship debut. RESULT: T71

Chris Riley 0.75pt EW 175/1 with Sky Free Bet Get up to £35 in free bets via this link: Sky Free Bet

Shocks happen here year in, year out. Goydos and Maggert were 250/1 and 300/1 respectively when they finished 2nd to Stricker here last year. Quigley delivered a beautiful 200/1 Each Way return in 2009 so I don’t mid looking a little left-field this week. Naturally it’s never easy to pick a long price contender, but Chris Riley ticks a hell of a lot of boxes and is fighting for his PGA Tour card so motivation won’t be an issue. He won’t win but “up-state” Bent green courses have always delivered his best results and he won his only PGA Tour victory on the bent greens of Montreaux in 02. TPC Deere Run has always been kind to Nevada based Riley who had 3 Top 5 finishes in the early noughties here. Back then Riley played in the US Ryder Cup team and finished 3rd and 4th in the PGA Championship (03/04) but an injury and a lack of mental fortitude has seen him slip into the role of journeyman. That said, he still delivers the odd result like 3rd at Milwaukee (08) with 2010 delivering 4th at TPC River Highlands where he shot -13 and 8th at Sedgefield with a score of -16. 30th at Muirfield recently and popped up into contention after 36 holes at Aronimink last week before throwing in a 3rd round 75 to settle his nerves to garner another 30th place. He’s close and he could add another decent finish to the 9th he delivered at Waialee in January. RESULT: M/C

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