JOHN DEERE CLASSIC
Winner's Share: 1.08M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Silvis, Ill.
Course: TPC Deere Run
2016 champion: Ryan Moore
This tournament is the punchline of so many golf jokes -- "What is this, a major or the John Deere Classic?" -- but it's also beloved by the people of the Quad Cities area in Illinois and Iowa, and even southern Wisconsinites. The Deere is even getting some extra love from the PGA Tour beginning this year as the winner's share has soared over $1 million for the first time -- you know, for all those professional golfers who won't get out of bed for less than a million bucks.
Usually falling under the radar a week before the Open Championship, the Deere was particularly hard hit last year, taking place in August the same week as golf's return to the Olympics. Back in its usual slot, the tournament's field is still among the weakest on the PGA Tour calendar, with many top names either off or at the Scottish Open in advance of heading to Royal Birkdale next week. World No. 20 Daniel Berger is the highest ranked golfer on hand, with No. 24 Kevin Kisner, No. 26 Brian Harman, No. 39 Charley Hoffman and 40-somethings Wesley Bryan, Bubba Watson and defending champion Ryan Moore the entirety of the top-50 contingent.
Good ol' boy Bubba surely will be a marquee attraction in his first foray to the heartland since 2010, but the perennial fan favorites -- and former tournament favorites -- are Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson. The other member of golf's Midwest aging triumvirate, Jerry Kelly, is not entered.
Regardless of who's here, they better have their track shoes on, because par-71 TPC Deere Run is a high-octane birdie-fest. In the past eight editions of the tournament, the winning score has been 20-under or better every year but 2013, when Jordan Spieth won at 19-under. Stricker holds the record at 26-under in 2010 during the second of his record three-straight Deere titles. That's when Stricker shot a 60 on the same day Paul Goydos electrified the crowd with a 59. So if you aren't making birdies here, or even an occasional eagle, there's a good chance you're losing ground to the field. Twelve of the 18 holes averaged under par last year. It will take more than the standard greens in regulation/make some putts equation to get the job done this week, as we'll explain in the key stats and Champion's Profile below. The most exciting hole on the course is the drivable 358-yard 14th, playing downhill to a tiny green. The hardest is par-4, 476-yard 18th.
Weather-wise, as of Tuesday morning, there was a 40 percent chance of rain in the earlier part of Thursday -- not concrete enough to affect lineup construction. After that, clear skies are forecast for the rest of the week.
Key Stats to Winning at TPC Deere Run (in order of importance)
• Proximity to the hole from 150-175 yards
• Putting average/strokes gained putting
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained approach
• Birdie or better percentage (BOB)/bogey avoidance
2016 - Ryan Moore
2015 - Jordan Spieth
2014 - Brian Harman
2013 - Jordan Spieth
2012 - Zach Johnson
2011 - Steve Stricker
2010 - Steve Stricker
2009 - Steve Stricker
2008 - Kenny Perry
2007 - Jonathan Byrd
For a tournament with such a weak field year after year, it has quite the lineage of top-name winners, unlike other secondary events such as last week's Greenbrier Classic. Oftentimes, a birdie-fest brings so many lesser golfers into play. And that surely has happened at the Deere. Still, looking back at the past 10 champions, only Jonathan Byrd and Brian Harman could be considered "lesser golfers," both outside the top-100 at the time of their wins. Looking down the first page of recent leaderboards, there have been plenty of little-knowns. That makes lineup construction much more challenging in this 156-man field. As always, greens in regulation is important, but that's not enough at the Deere. Golfers better land their approach shots close to the hole and make their putts. Every golfer since 2010, save Harman, has finished top-10 in putting average. Yes, there have been some darn good putters winning these tournaments, but they've also put themselves in prime position to make those putts. In the past seven JDCs, the winner has been in the top-20 in proximity six times, and Ryan Moore and Harman ranked second. Normally, greens in regulation is our top key stat, but this week, golfers will need to be even more precise.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Daniel Berger - $11,300 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 12-1)
It's unclear why Berger is choosing to play this tournament for the first time, but no matter, he arrives as one of the hottest golfers going, with a win and a runner-up in his past three starts. Berger is 15th on Tour in birdie or better (26th in bogey avoidance). He's 24th in strokes gained putting, enough to overcome a T83 in proximity from 150-175.
Brian Harman - $10,900 (20-1)
Harman is one of the best putters on Tour, but he won this tournament three years ago with some rather awful putting numbers. He was 63rd in the field with negative SGP, so look out this year. Right now, he's ranked 20th on Tour in SGP. Harman is also T11 in proximity 150-175. And of course he's amid a great season, with a win at the Wells Fargo and runner-up at the U.S. Open last month.
Danny Lee - $10,200 (20-1)
Lee continued his red-hot run with a T9 at the Greenbrier last week, his fourth top-10 in the past two months. He's also enjoyed success at the Deere, finishing tied for third in 2015. Lee is 18th in proximity 150-175, 32nd in SGP and T36 in BOB.
Steve Stricker - $9,800 (25-1)
We're going against one of our rules, one we stressed just last week: Watch out for guys whose DraftKings prices surge for a given tournament. It happened last week with David Lingmerth and Charles Howell III, and both finished far back in the pack. Stricker, however, has the 1-2 punch of stellar course history and good current form. He's made six straight cuts, four of them top-20s. Even in his 50s, he's tied for 22nd on Tour in SGP.
Tier 2 Values
Kyle Stanley - $9,600 (20-1)
This is Stanley's first start since his win at the Quicken Loans, and regular readers know of our concern with golfers coming off wins, especially those who win so rarely. That said, Stanley is second in GIR, T9 in proximity 150-175 and 23rd in BOB (24th in bogey avoidance). He's finished top-25 at the past two Deeres, and was runner-up to Stricker in 2011.
Chez Reavie - $8,400 (50-1)
Reavie has had mixed success at the Deere. Since tying for fifth in 2011, he notched a T15 in 2013 but also two 60-something finishes. His precision game has been especially precise this season, with a ranking of T34 in proximity 150-175 -- and first in overall proximity. He's also 20th in bogey avoidance. While Reavie tied for fourth at a tough-scoring track (Memphis) last month, he's also shown a propensity to go low at birdie-fests, including Mayakoba and the Sony earlier this season.
Ben Martin - $8,300 (50-1)
Martin, runner-up here last year, has ridden a wave of eight straight cashes to climb into the top-125 in the point standings -- at exactly No. 125. He's ranked T38 in proximity 150-175.
Kevin Na - $8,000 (40-1)
Na has played the Deere twice in recent years, tying for eighth last year and 13th in 2014. He's certainly not having a good season by his standards, but he is T3 in proximity 150-175 and 10th in strokes gained approach. As usual, his putting has hurt him, but at $8,000 you don't need a victory to make Na a solid choice this week.
Tier 3 Values
Nick Watney - $7,900 (60-1)
Running off eight straight made cuts, Watney is now safely inside the top-125 at No. 104. He hasn't played Deere Run in a few years, but tied for 27th in 2013 and was T13 the year before that. Most of Watney's season-long numbers aren't great (better of late), but he is 17th in strokes gained approach and sixth in overall proximity.
Bryson DeChambeau - $7,800 (50-1)
DeChambeau has overcome a horrendous stretch of eight straight trunk-slams to string together three good finishes in a row, including top-20s the past two weeks. That's helped him move to 47th for the season in strokes gained tee to green and 77th in BOB. Still not great, but far better than just a month ago.
Chad Campbell - $7,600 (60-1)
Campbell skipped last year's Deere when it was played in August, but he had played the previous eight editions and cashed every time with four top-20s. Campbell is riding a good run of four cashes in his past five starts overall, and three of them have been top-15. Campbell is 28th in GIR and 34th in overall proximity. He's an ugly 163rd in BOB, but counters that by being tied for second in bogey avoidance.
Nick Taylor - $7,600 (50-1)
Taylor has finished the past two Thursdays on the first page of the leaderboard. He hasn't been able to sustain it, but did manage a tie for ninth last week at the Greenbrier. That was his sixth cash in his past seven starts, and his third top-10 in that stretch. Taylor is 50th in strokes gained tee to green. He's 101st in BOB but T41 in bogey avoidance.
Wesley Bryan - $7,300 (60-1)
Bryan played this tournament last year as a Web.com Tour member and he tied for eighth. He's fallen off in recent months from his late winter/springtime success, but he's still T11 in proximity 150-175, 20th in strokes gained approach and 45th in SGP.
Grayson Murray - $7,300 (Field, 5-2)
Murray burned us last week when he withdrew early on Thursday. But it was an illness, not an injury, and he should be good to go this week. That hiccup ended a run of 10 straight cuts made. Murray sits T34 in proximity 150-175. He's 66th in BOB but also -- and cover your eyes here -- 184th in bogey avoidance. Even during his three-month run, that number has barely improved. This is his Deere debut.
Michael Kim - $6,900 (100-1)
Kim has made seven cuts in his past eight starts. Although none of them has been a top-25, his best was last week's T29 at the Greenbrier. Kim has proven to be among the better putters on Tour, sitting at T37 in SGP. That's helped him improve to T56 in BOB.
Brandon Hagy - $6,700 (Field, 5-2)
Hagy has been making a push to get inside the top-125. His third cash in his past fourth starts last week at the Greenbrier got him to the edge, at No. 126. A T18 at the Old White TPC was also his fourth top-25 of the season. His best stats number is 10. That's how many eagles he has on the season, tying him for seventh on Tour. He's improved to 105th in BOB. Hagy is also 26th in strokes gained off the tee and 56th around the green. Not our key stats, but solid rankings indeed.