The John Deere Classic is usually the tournament which precedes The Open on the PGA Tour but the fact that the PGA Tour and European Tour have come together to open up the Scottish Open to both tours next week, the TPC Deere Run event has moved forward and begins on Thursday.
Lucas Glover headed to The Open with the ultimate confidence boost last year when he took this title down and he will be hoping to repeat the feat here. He is up against a weaker field this year too for a variety of reasons which we’ll come on to.
2021 – Lucas Glover
2019 – Dylan Frittelli
2018 – Michael Kim
2017 – Bryson DeChambeau
2016 – Ryan Moore
2015 – Jordan Spieth
2014 – Brian Harman
2013 – Jordan Spieth
2012 – Zach Johnson
2011 – Steve Stricker
The strength of the field might have changed but the host course hasn’t as we are back at TPC Deere Run this week. This has always been a low scoring, which has often been down to the indifferent weather that this part of the world sees at this time of year, however this week the American summer has very much followed us to this part of the world and a heatwave is expected so firm and fast conditions could make for an interesting week.
The track has remained unchanged since we were last here so it is a par 71 which stretches to 7,289 yards which doesn’t mean you have to bomb it this week, Primarily this is a second shot golf course where it is all about setting up as many birdie chances as possible and convert a good percentage of them. Players with hot putters are the ones to be with. Some of the bunkers have been moved around so a little bit of course management might be needed early.
There is no point in trying to dress the field up this week as anything other than poor in comparison to what we have got used to, but when Rory McIlroy has just played the last five weeks there was always going to be a downturn when the week came that he wasn’t teeing it up. That is here which leaves Webb Simpson as probably the best name in the field as he looks to get back on track after a difficult beginning to the year.
A lot of recognisable names are either over in Europe already getting ready for the Scottish Open next week or The Open the following week, or they have quit the tour and headed for the LIV Golf event. The end result is a second string field here where the likes of Adam Hadwin, Sahith Theegala, Patrick Rodgers and Scott Stallings are among a number of form horses who will fancy their chances. Jason Day and Christiaan Bezuidenhout are notable challengers from overseas.
Webb Simpson is a general 12/1 favourite to win the tournament this week. He certainly sets the standard on career achievements but I’m not sure he is necessarily firing on all cylinders and regardless of the opposition you still need to hit the ball well to get around any golf course for 72 holes let alone one like this where the emphasis is going to be on low scoring. He was T13 at the Travelers last week which is more encouraging but his Deere Run record reads MC-39-21 and he hasn’t played here since 2010. He isn’t for me.
Adam Hadwin had a great time of it at the US Open a couple of weeks ago, leading the way for spells of that tournament, and that signalled a return to form after a very lean spell for the Canadian. The test now for him will be to show that wasn’t a one-off good week and that he is capable of following it up. Previous spins around here of T18-T8 suggest he is at the right track for it and on that he is a dangerous contender at 20/1.
Sahith Theegala and Denny McCarthy come next in the betting at 25/1. The latter also had a good US Open but failed to follow it up last week. It might just be that the exertions of Brookline caught up with him so I wouldn’t necessarily write him off just yet but you would have to turn your back on his 34-MC-MC record here. Theegala certainly has the tools to go well here but you would imagine Sunday would have hurt when a par at the last would have earned him a play-off but he could only make double bogey. It is 30/1 bar.
I’ll go with a couple of main bets this week and one of them is the man I took at a much bigger price last week in Nick Hardy. He annoyed me and he pleased me last week. The pleasure came from him hanging on for a share of a place but the annoyance came from the fact that but for a bogey at the penultimate hole that place would have been a full one. Nevertheless, he’s the home man this week and the form he carries into the tournament has to be a positive. The negative is that this is the fourth week in a row for him but the fact that he lives local should hopefully negate some of the baggage that usually comes with that. Hardy comes in here with form figures of 35 in Canada, 14 at the US Open and 8 last week and that was off the back of coming second in his last Korn Ferry Tour start last month. Form means a lot in a weak field and on a course he’ll know and which suits he’s a pretty easy main bet.
The other main bet I like is Patrick Rodgers. He has quietly been going under the radar this season, occasionally popping up on a leaderboard but not following through with the job. The latest offering of that was at the US Open where he had a wonderful opening 36 holes but found nothing in the tank at the weekend. That was his fourth week in succession though so mental fatigue was understandable as was any physical ones. He took last week off so should freshen up for a tournament he has gone on record as saying is his favourite of the season given that it was one of the first ones he contended in back in his amateur days while he was making his way. In the last three months or so Rodgers has finished T10 in Mexico, T18 in Canada and T31 with a poor weekend at the US Open. Those were in fields a lifetime better than this so at a venue he loves I’ll back Rodgers to be right there this week.
The days where I back Zach Johnson for a PGA Tour event are fading fast but I will try and eek one more good week out of the veteran here. I say that for three reasons. The first one would be that there aren’t many tracks on the tour that Johnson can contend on with his lack of length but this is one of them. The second reason would be his fine record here. He won here in 2012 and has six other top five finishes on the course so he knows and enjoys every part of TPC Deere Run and finally the field this week is so weak that I don’t think we’re looking for a superstar performance to win. You still need some form in the book and it is interesting that Johnson has displayed his best golf this season at The American Express where the courses are short and the Texas Open which is a wedge course too. He was also T23 at Colonial not too long ago which is a good result. That suggests there is still enough in his game to get a tune out of him this week.
My final bet is a bit more of a shot in the dark in the form of Austin Smotherman. Admittedly if you just look at his form numbers you won’t see too much that you like with just four top 25 finishes in 2022 but then you go deeper into them and one was at Torrey Pines, another at the Valspar and the last two were at the Wells Fargo and Byron Nelson so all four had stacked fields and the first three were on traditionally tough and tight golf courses so there is clearly game there. He doesn’t have a strong field to contend with here and this course isn’t as hard as those ones so a player who all season long has gained shots on the field off the tee and with the putter he’s entitled to be in the mix here.
Back N.Hardy to win John Deere Classic (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-8)
Back P.Rodgers to win John Deere Classic (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 31.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-8)
Back A.Smotherman to win John Deere Classic (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 126.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-8)
Back Z.Johnson to win John Deere Classic (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 91.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-8)
Back him here: