As ever on the PGA Tour the week before The Open the John Deere Classic is staged as those not yet in the final major of the year have one last chance to make it in by winning this tournament. Those who are have a last chance to fine tune their game before heading off for Northern Ireland.
Michael Kim qualified for The Open by winning this tournament 12 months ago and he is back to defend the title against a much weaker field it has to be said. This tournament may be competitive but might not take as much winning as previous years.
2018 – Michael Kim
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
The strength of the field might have changed but the host course hasn’t as we are back at TOC Deere Run this week. This has always been a low scoring course but with the rain in the area in the lead up to the tournament scoring is expected to be even lower again here so the one thing we have to have on side is a good putter and scorer.
The track is a par 71 which stretches to 7,268 yards which doesn’t mean you have to bomb it this week although the potential softness of the course could appeal to the bigger hitters. 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.
While there is a chance for the next generation of golf across the pond to shine this week, you would have to be honest about it and suggest that this field is quite weak. That is not to say we won’t get some good golf as the likes of Matthew Wolff, Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland have supplied plenty in recent times but there isn’t that depth to this field that perhaps we would want.
In terms of experienced professionals we are looking at the likes of former winner Ryan Moore, Charles Howell III, Kyle Stanley and Brian Harman to carry the can. Zach Johnson has a brilliant record around here and he’ll be looking to protect that while Daniel Berger, Kyle Stanley and others will be looking for the confidence boost their season needs.
The young pair of Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa are the 20/1 favourites to win the tournament this week. The fact it is 20/1 the field highlights that bookies don’t really have a clue what is about to curtail. Usually you need a spin or three around here to be at home and competitive so that is a negative on this pair but they are both in good form, are surely winners in waiting, and would have every chance if they take to the place. They are too short for me though.
Joaquin Niemann and Matthew Wolff are next in the betting at 25/1 along with Sungjae Im. Wolff won last week and don’t let his quirky swing put you off, that was the first of many he will pick up through his career but for anyone to win in successive weeks is asking a lot let alone someone who had the emotional high of winning for the first time at this level. He’s out of my thinking while Niemann isn’t convincing me enough on the greens. It is hard to rule Im out other than this isn’t an event I like short prices in.
Brian Harman is 28/1 to return to form by winning the title here. He has triumphed around the Deere Run before and it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if he was to do so again, particularly in this company, but in a shootout you need to be on a player whose form you can pick few holes in, especially at this price and that isn’t Harman this week I don’t think. It is 30/1 bar.
My two main bets this week are both decent prices with the first of them being Wyndham Clark who I think is threatening a win again. I took him in a couple of tournaments earlier in the season without joy but this shouldn’t take a lot of winning so I need to be on him again. He was T5 last week at the 3M Open and sits third on Tour in putting for birdies or better which is a statistic that it is hard not to like this week. He is seventh in strokes gained putting and ranked 12 for par breakers. Given how well he hit the ball last week, and the fact he led six holes from home, he looks a big price here.
It is a surprise that the record of Troy Merritt around here isn’t stronger than it is because this is a home match for him. That might be why we’re getting the price we are on him though as everyone else seems to fit for here. His tee to green game can stand the test of many but he is usually let down by the putter however having putted so much better last week I’m wondering if he can take that to here for a course he knows every inch of. He is a solid scorer who can go very low so he’s entitled to be in the mix this week.
Harold Varner III was sixth here last year and this classy low scorer should be taken against this week. The American began the season well but then tailed off in recent times and it has been a bleak copybook for him over the last couple of months but this is a track that suits his assets so in a tournament which is devoid of the big names I think he has to be taken with an outside bet here. On a going week he can score with the best of them s it is worth paying to see how low he goes this week.
Johnson Wagner has a decent enough record round here and it can often pay to follow course horses this week. Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker regularly go well and Wagner can follow in their footsteps. His iron play has him ranked seventh in GIR on the PGA Tour this season and he’s in the top 25 for strokes gained putting. Those stats alone make him more than competitive here and given that he was in the top 25 in Minnesota last week he might just be trending in the right direction and looks a big price to compete well again round the Deere Run.
Andres Romero has a long distance trek to overcome but if he can do that he could have every chance here. Romero certainly doesn’t lack competitive hits having played the last three weeks in Europe. His results got better each week there and his putting statistics were so off the charts you couldn’t help but notice them. I was prepared to take Romero for the Scottish Open this week but the fact he tees it up here in a field with probably only a fifth of the quality could be perfect. If he can dial some irons in this week, the way he is putting he could gallop away from the field here as he has a tendency to do when he goes well.
Back W.Clark to win John Deere Classic (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 46.00 with Ladbrokes (1/4 1-5)
Back T.Merritt to win John Deere Classic (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 67.00 with Betway (1/4 1-5)
Back H.Varner III to win John Deere Classic (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
Back J.Wagner to win John Deere Classic (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 111.00 with Betfred (1/5 1-6)
Back A.Romero to win John Deere Classic (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 176.00 with Betfred (1/5 1-6)
Back them here: