There were thoroughly deserved victories for Russell Knox and Kevin Na in Ireland and West Virginia respectively last week. Knox has undoubtedly placed himself right in the shop window for European Ryder Cup Captain Thomas Bjorn and the Scot, who has a WGC title on his CV, will be wanting to put right the very near miss he had to selection back in 2016. Kevin Na’s victory was only his second PGA Tour triumph in 334 Tour appearances, coming almost 7 years after his maiden victory in 2011. Put yourself in position enough times and things eventually go your way. Knox and Na were 28/1 and 50/1 winners respectively – well done if you landed a victory last week. We managed a partial 28/1 each-way return on Joaquin Niemann who is now guaranteed full PGA Tour privileges for next season in what was otherwise a frustrating week.
Our John Deere Classic tips are the traditional stateside Open Championship warm-up and always presents an interesting challenge for keen golf punters. Never the strongest field-wise, the event is still worth a full 500 FedEx Cup points to the winner and comes with the standard 2-year PGA Tour exemption so it’s a prize well worth taking. Played at the extremely low-scoring TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois, the real skill is to work through which players have the motivation and skill-sets required to produce a birdie barrage around the accommodating D.A.Weibring Par 71 design. With the final PGA Tour Open Championship spot available this week to the leading non-qualified player who finishes in the top 5 or ties, competition should be fierce in a tournament that always provokes keen interest for those brought up in America’s Mid-West.
Over on the European Tour, Paul Williams previews the Scottish Open – you can read his thoughts on that event here.
Course Guide: TPC Deere Run is a drag-strip of a Par 71 where you’d better make birdies or pack your bags come Friday evening. Ryan Moore, Jordan Spieth and Brian Harman all managed an eagle or 3 (always a bonus) and 21/22 birdies respectively when winning here, whilst defending champion Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson and Spieth again made 24, 24 and 25 birdies respectively when enjoying their successes since 2012. A minimum 1-in-3 birdie or better conversion is traditionally required to get the job done at the John Deere Classic with the course giving chances to both the shortest and longest players. It’s also abundantly clear that the tournament eventually boils down to a putting contest where a sub-1.7 Putts per GIR performance is required if a player wants to be in the Sunday afternoon mix.
TPC Deere Run, Silvis, Illinois: Designer: D.A. Weibring 1999, with PGA Tour Design renovation 2006/07; Course Type: Resort; Par: 71; Length: 7,268 yards; Water Hazards: 3; Fairways: Bentgrass; Rough: Kentucky Bluegrass with Fine Fescue 4″; Greens: 6,000 sq.ft average featuring L-93 Bentgrass; Stimpmeter: 11ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 69.55 (-1.45), Difficulty Rank 42 of 49 courses. 2013: 69.40 (-1.60), Difficulty Rank 36 of 43 courses. 2014: 69.76 (-1.26), Rank 42 of 48 courses. 2015: 69.65 (-1.35), Rank 43 of 52 courses. 2016: 69.90 (-1.10), Rank 39 of 50 courses. 2017: 69.75 (-1.25), Rank 38 of 50 courses.
TPC Deere Run Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for TPC Deere Run and how they compare to recent courses that we’ve seen on Tour:
- TPC Deere Run: 250 yards from the tee: 42 yards wide; 275:40; 300:37; 325:33; 350:30.
- Old White TPC: 250 yards from the tee: 36 yards wide; 275:34; 300:34; 325:35; 350:32.
- TPC Potomac: 250 yards from the tee: 32 yards wide; 275:30; 300:27; 325:23; 350:27.
- TPC River Highlands: 250 yards from the tee: 37 yards wide; 275:35; 300:28; 325:28; 350:27.
- Shinnecock Hills: Average 42 yards with 8th hole widest at 64 yards wide.
- TPC Southwind: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:29; 300:28; 325:31; 350:25.
- Muirfield Village: 250 yards from the tee: 36 yards wide; 275:35; 300:31; 325:26; 350:30.
- Colonial: 250 yards from tee: 28 yards wide; 275:26; 300:27; 325:26; 350:23.
- Trinity Forest: 250 yards from the tee: 58 yards wide; 275:54; 300:56; 325:60; 350:57.
- TPC Sawgrass: 250 yards from tee: 32 yards wide; 275:33; 300:32; 325:29; 350:20.
- Quail Hollow: 250 yards from tee: 32 yards wide; 275:30; 300:30; 325:29; 350:28.
- Oaks Course: 250 yards from tee: 32 yards wide; 275:33; 300:28; 325:27; 350:25.
- Harbour Town: 250 yards from tee: 30 yards wide; 275:24; 300:21; 325:26; 350:23.
Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other D.A. Weibring designs include:
- TPC Four Seasons – AT&T Byron Nelson (re-design 2008)
Course Overview: TPC Deere Run is a course that’s extremely scoreable for those players who love to manage their way strategically around a golf course rather than dominate it. With fairways that are easy to hit and receptive 6,000 sq.ft average Bentgrass green complexes to aim at, scoring is correspondingly low. Deere Run is a course that offers up opportunities for bombers like Jhonattan Vegas, Patrick Rodgers and Bryson DeChambeau or plotters like Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore and Wesley Bryan. The key this week will ultimately be a hot putter and minimising bogeys which is always the case on resort-level scoring tests.
Despite playing slightly tougher in 2014, 11 holes still played under par across the tournament, whilst 2015 saw 13 holes, with 12 holes under par in both 2016 and 2017. It’s worth noting that no course rookie has won the tournament since Sean O’Hair in 2005. Post-cut scoring increases slightly with more difficult pin positions and those with prior knowledge of this event know where those weekend holes will be cut and, more importantly, where to position off the tee to access them.
TPC Deere Run is a track that rewards consistency as bogeys in any great volume will cost a player any chance of victory. Fairways are wide for the length of course and 2 of the par-5s (2nd and 17th) are reachable for the whole field. As you’d expect, green complexes run pure and aren’t overly taxing. The tournament tends to be won by excellent putters who can find enough greens and hit the ball close enough to the pin so as to create enough birdie chances. Saying that ball-striker extraordinaire Bryson DeChambeau won this in 2017, entering the tournament ranked 195th in Strokes Gained Putting. Another angle to explore this week is to find players who are comfortable on par-3s as TPC Deere Run’s set of short holes yields plenty of birdies (2nd & 4th highest in 2016/2017) each and every renewal.
Winners: 2017: Bryson DeChambeau (-18); 2016: Ryan Moore (-22); 2015: Jordan Spieth (-20); 2014: Brian Harman (-22); 2013: Jordan Spieth (-19); 2012: Zach Johnson (-20); 2011: Steve Stricker (-22); 2010: Steve Sticker (-26).
Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Chesson Hadley, Zach Johnson, Brian Gay, Chez Reavie, Ricky Barnes, Zac Blair, Brandon Harkins, Ryan Moore, San Saunders and Bryson DeChambeau.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the Wells Fargo Championship and includes both PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
- Driving Accuracy: 1) Mark Wilson; 2) Charlie Beljan; 3) Ken Duke; 4) Brian Gay; 5) David Lingmerth / Ryan Moore / Conrad Shindler / Kyle Stanley; 9) Brian Stuard; 10) Kevin Streelman; 11) Ben Silverman; 12) Francesco Molinari; 13) Steve Stricker; 14) J.J. Henry; 15) Alex Cejka / C.T. Pan; 17) Sam Ryder; 18) Chez Reavie; 19) Ben Crane / Scott Piercy.
- Greens in Regulation: 1) Joaquin Niemann; 2) John Merrick; 3) Kevin Streelman; 4) Bryson DeChambeau / Ryan Moore; 6) J.J. Henry; 7) Andrew Putnam; 8) Chris Kirk / Francesco Molinari; 10) Tyler Duncan; 11) Joel Dahmen / C.T. Pan; 13) Sam Ryder; 14) Corey Conners; 15) Steve Stricker; 16) Kyle Stanley; 17) Brett Stegmaier; 18) Harold Varner III; 19) William McGirt / Scott Piercy / Nick Watney / Aaron Wise.
- Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Parker McLachlin; 2) Brian Gay; 3) Brandon Harkins; 4) Brendon De Jonge; 5) Ben Crane; 6) Peter Malnati; 7) Whee Kim; 8) D.J. Trahan; 9) Stuart Appleby; 10) Si Woo Kim / J.T. Poston / Francesco Molinari / Steve Stricker; 14) Aaron Wise; 15) Chesson Hadley / Mackenzie Hughes / Stephan Jaeger; 18) Scott Brown / Chris Kirk; 20) Bryson DeChambeau / Dicky Pride.
Winners & Prices: 2017: DeChambeau 50/1; 2016: Moore 25/1; 2015: Spieth 4/1; 2014: Harman 125/1; 2013: Spieth 40/1; 2012: Zach Johnson 12/1; 2011: Stricker 7/1; 2010: Stricker 16/1. Average: 35/1. Past 4 Renewals Average: 51/1.
- 2017: Thursday: Partly sunny with a high of 83. Wind WNW 8-15 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy with a high of 77. Wind NW 7-12 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny with a high of 83. Wind WSW 5-10 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy with a high of 83. Wind NE 8-15 mph.
- 2016: Thursday: Overcast, with afternoon thunderstorms. Friday: High of 82. Wind NNW at 8-15 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy, becoming partly cloudy with a high of 82. Wind NW at 8-15 mph. Sunday: Sunny, with a high of 82. Wind W at 5-10 mph.
- 2015: Thursday: Mostly sunny, with a high of 75. Winds variable at 5-10 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 81. Wind SE at 8-15 mph. Saturday: Overcast, with rain and lightning in the morning. Partly cloudy in the afternoon. High of 81. Wind SE at 6-12 mph. Sunday: Partly sunny, with a high of 87. Wind SE at 6-12 mph.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Silvis, Illinois, is here. It hasn’t rained here since 26th June so don’t expect soft conditions. However the organisers here always want to encourage birdies, so greens will undoubtedly be receptive. Breeze across Thursday, Friday and Sunday may take the scoring down just a notch, and there’s a 60% chance of rain on Saturday. Temperatures will reach 30-33 degrees Celsius.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 8 winners of this event since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
- 2017, Bryson DeChambeau (-17). 302 yards (21st), 75.0% fairways (32nd), 79.2% greens in regulation (11th), proximity to hole 30’7″ (13th), 66.7 % scrambling (29th), 1.65 putts per GIR (10th).
- 2016, Ryan Moore (-22). 289 yards (34th), 82.1% fairways (12th), 83.3% greens in regulation (1st), proximity to hole 27’0″ (2nd), 91.1 % scrambling (1st), 1.67 putts per GIR (6th).
- 2015, Jordan Spieth (-20). 284 yards (17th), 69.6% fairways (60th), 72.2% greens in regulation (33rd), proximity to hole 28’9″ (16th), 65.0 % scrambling (32nd), 1.54 putts per GIR (1st).
- 2014, Brian Harman (-22). 303 yards (18th), 80.4% fairways (8th), 87.5% greens in regulation (1st), proximity to hole 23’3″ (2nd), 66.7 % scrambling (29th), 1.70 putts per GIR (31st).
- 2013, Jordan Spieth (-19). 318 yards (14th), 76.8% fairways (19th), 72.2% greens in regulation (34th), proximity to hole 34’1″ (56th), 70.0% scrambling (18th), 1.62 putts per GIR (8th).
- 2012, Zach Johnson (-20). 293 yards (47th), 73.2% fairways (34th), 75.0% greens in regulation (26th), proximity to hole 29’7″ (16th), 77.8% scrambling (2nd), 1.61 putts per GIR (4th).
- 2011, Steve Sticker (-22). 318 yards (12th), 64.3% fairways (62nd), 73.6% greens in regulation (33rd), proximity to hole 30’2″ (15th), 78.9% scrambling (2nd), 1.55 putts per GIR (1st).
- 2010, Steve Stricker (-26). 292 yards (32nd), 73.2% fairways (34th), 80.6% greens in regulation (11th), proximity to hole 26’5″ (5th), 64.3% scrambling (24th), 1.53 putts per GIR (1st).
Tournament Skill Averages:
- Driving Distance: 24th, Driving Accuracy: 33rd, Greens in Regulation: 19th, Proximity to Hole: 16th, Scrambling: 17th, Putting Average 8th.
So let’s take a view from players as to how the course sets up and what specific skills it requires:
Bryson DeChambeau: “Yeah, you got to be hitting your wedges really close. If you can do that all week, you’ll be just fine. If you can make pars on the tough par-3s and hit it on the fairway, like on 15 every day, land it on the green, two-putt, make your par, get out of there, I think you have a very good chance of playing well here.
I have always liked short par 4s. My favorite is No. 9 at Cypress. It’s definitely a cool little short par-4; drivable. A lot of risk/reward in it. I think D.A.’s (Weibring) done a great job with 14, as well as 17. Definitely risk/reward holes that if you execute shots well you’re going to get rewarded. That’s the epitome of golf, right? Executing a shot, having it end up beautifully, even though sometimes you can get a bad break, right? So you could hit a beautiful shot on 14 and get absolutely into the worst place possible. Like if you pull it just a little bit on 14 and get on the down slope in the rough to the short left pin you’re toast. You’ve got to know where to miss it on those holes. I think he’s designed it very, very well.“
Ryan Moore: “It’s a course I’ve really grown to like over the years. I played it early in my career, and I took a few years kind of off in the middle, and when I came back and started playing it again, I don’t know, I appreciated it more for some reason or another. Maybe I’ve learned over the years the type of golf courses that are good for me and that set up well for me, and this is definitely one of them. The golf course has enough angles, and the holes that you can force it down there a little bit farther, they’re pretty difficult tee shots, so guys that hit it significantly farther than me don’t have a huge advantage on a golf course like this.
Yeah, I think that’s part of the success. I enjoy the course. I like bent greens a lot. These are honestly some of the best we putt on every single year, and they’re probably the best I’ve ever seen them this year. They’re fantastic.“
Zach Johnson: “I think starting on 14, you’ve got often times a reachable par 4, a birdie hole, but a hole that if you’re just a little bit off, a bogey hole. 15 is a really good par 4. Obviously 16 assuming it’s one of the signature holes here if not the signature hole, great little par 3. A birdieable, maybe even eagle hole on 17, and then a brutal but fair 18th hole with a lot of opportunity and I would say treachery around the corner. It’s just because of the character of the last five holes here, I think. I don’t want to equate it to another golf course, but I look at I’m not saying we’re going to have seven straight birdies to finish, but if you look at TPC River Highlands, it’s kind of got that sort of ingredient, where you have a reachable par 5, you’ve got a short par 4, a par 3, a lot of water, and just holes that you can either go really, really low or it can really bite you, and I think that’s why you see a little bit of movement and guys just kind of bunching up at the end.“
D.A. Points: “Again, for lack of a better term, it’s a putting contest and that’s why Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson win a lot because they make everything. I shoot under par every time I come here; it’s just not under par enough to see the weekend.“
Keegan Bradley: “Yeah, you really need to be ready to go from the first tee to the last, because you’re going to have to make a bunch of birdies on this course this week to contend, but most importantly, you’ve got to hit the ball on these fairways. They are generous fairways, but if you do hit the ball in the fairway, you’re going to be able to basically attack every pin position right now because of the softness.“
Steve Stricker: “Winning score? Depends on the weather, I guess. I mean, there’s just a lot of good birdie opportunities out there, par-5s, some of them are reachable. For everybody, two of them are reachable, two out of the three. And there’s a lot of short irons in your hand where you can make some birdies. And then the holes you’ve got to pay attention on, you make your pars and move on. But yeah, it’ll be pushing that 20 number, I’m sure. The greens are pure.“
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 8 winners of this event:
- 2017 – Bryson DeChambeau: Round 1: 8th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 5th.
- 2016 – Ryan Moore: Round 1: 3rd, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
- 2015 – Jordan Spieth: Round 1: 101st, Round 2: 16th, Round 3: 1st.
- 2014 – Brian Harman: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 1st.
- 2013 – Jordan Spieth: Round 1: 64th, Round 2: 19th, Round 3: 9th.
- 2012 – Zach Johnson: Round 1: 39th, Round 2: 11th, Round 3: 3rd.
- 2011 – Steve Stricker: Round 1: 7th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
- 2010 – Steve Stricker: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
- Bryson DeChambeau: 14th Greenbrier/17th National/26th Travelers/MC US Open.
- Ryan Moore: 17th Travelers/70th PGA/46th Open/32nd US Open.
- Jordan Spieth: 1st US Open/3rd Memorial/30th TPC4S/2nd Colonial.
- Brian Harman: MC Greenbrier/MC AT&T National/42nd Travelers/6th St Jude.
- Jordan Spieth: 23rd Greenbrier/6th AT&T National/MC US Open/63rd Memorial.
- Zach Johnson: 64th Travelers/41st US Open/MC St Jude/1st Colonial.
- Steve Stricker: 19th US Open/1st Memorial/12th TPC Sawgrass/13th New Orleans.
- Steve Stricker: 58th US Open/17th Memorial/38th Colonial/30th Masters.
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010.
- 2017 – Howell III/Schniederjans – AM/PM Split -8/63 – 45/1 & 95/1
- 2016 – Gillis/Loupe – Both PM -7/64.
- 2015 – Thomas/N Thompson – AM/PM Split -8/63.
- 2014 – Harman/Z Johnson/Sabbatini – All AM -8/63.
- 2013 – Z Johnson / Villegas – Both AM -7/64.
- 2012 – Matteson – PM -10/61.
- 2011 – Blanks – PM -8/63.
- 2010 – Goydos – AM -12/59.
For the record, here’s the breakdown of pure Bentgrass green PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
- 6 – Steve Stricker.
- 5 – Zach Johnson.
- 3 – Ryan Moore.
- 2 – Chris Kirk, Francesco Molinari, Nick Watney.
- 1 – Stuart Appleby, Jonathan Byrd, Bryson DeChambeau, Ken Duke, Bill Haas, Billy Hurley III, Danny Lee, David Lingmerth, Hunter Mahan, Troy Merritt, Sean O’Hair, Rod Pampling, Carl Pettersson, Chez Reavie, Rory Sabbatini, Scott Stallings, Kyle Stanley, Kevin Streelman.
Recent winning totals of -16, -20, -26, -22, -20, -19, -22, -20, -22 and -18 highlight that the key to success in Illinois is two-fold: make copious amounts of birdies and minimise dropped shots. It’s not rocket science! However dig a little deeper and across the past 4 renewals Bryson DeChambeau, Ryan Moore, Jordan Spieth and Brian Harman have entered the tournament in the top 90 of birdie-makers. That’s ok, but effectively only top third on Tour. Look at Bogey Avoidance and those ranks correlate to 9th (Spieth 2013), 27th (Harman), 3rd (Spieth 2015), 90th (Moore 2016) and 139th (DeChambeau 2017). Bryson’s number from last year is certainly an outlier, where the season-long number was based upon a terrible start to 2017 where he’d missed 12 cuts with a new putting style. However you can see the requirement for players to be balanced in being able to attack but keep the card clean on tough par-4s like the 9th, 15th and certainly the 18th which traditionally plays as the hardest on the course.
It won’t surprise in a tournament where 4 straight rounds of 66 is the target that streaky scorers dominate the contending positions. Ryan, Jordan, Zach and ‘Mr John Deere’ Steve Stricker are all excellent putters, but equally ball-strikers can contend and occasionally win. Bryson DeChambeau, Sean O’Hair, Jhonattan Vegas, John Senden, Troy Matteson and Kyle Stanley are hardly outstanding when it comes to the flat stick, but excellent close approach play on enough holes can generate the volume of close birdie opportunities required to feature. Tour maidens like O’Hair, Senden, Brian Harman, Bryson DeChambeau and famously Jordan Spieth have captured their first titles in this event, but in recent times course experience has been absolutely key to get over the finish line.