Welcome to a birdie festival.
The John Deere Classic, played at TPC Deere Run in the Quad Cities in Illinois, is a staple of the PGA Tour.
It’s traditionally a low-scoring affair with the wide fairways allowing players to put themselves in position to attack the pins.
With The Open Championship awaiting next week it is not the strongest field on offer but there’s plenty to sink your teeth into when you’re researching this 156-man field.
The course is a 7,268 yard par-71 with three par fives. The greens are bentgrass and the course record is 59, set by Paul Goydos in 2010.
Last week: It was a mixed bag. Of the nine players I looked at, six finished inside the top 30, including four in the top 13.
But three players missed the cut, all on the number. Fairly frustrating stuff.
The winning score has averaged about -20 for the past four years so you need players that can make birdies.
The fairways are wide and this week is all about hitting wedges close and sinking putts.
The par fives are there for the taking and these short par fours could be fodder for the field.
Don’t be afraid to get aggressive with your flyer picks because this is not a strong field.
While the winners are generally big names, there’s an oddball collection of golfers who have filled out the top 10 in recent years.
There’s also a collection of players with incredible course history, such as Zach Johnson ($9,000) and veteran Steve Stricker ($7,800). Johnson has seven top-five finishes in his past nine appearances here, including a win.
Stricker, meanwhile, is the last player on Tour to win an event three years on the bounce when he won this tournament from 2009-2011.
So if you’re a course history fiend, this is one of your weeks.
Form, wedges and good putting is my focus here.
$8 and $9K Range
Bryson DeChambeau ($9,100) – The American lit TPC Deere Run up last year with a white-hot putter.
Since that win, the defending champion has taken his game to another level and I don’t think he is turning up here to shake some hands and reminisce about last year.
He’s 14th for strokes gained: approach on Tour this season.
Zach Johnson ($9,000) – You could look for the stats to back up a Johnson selection or just briefly run your eye over that course history.
He’s won here and very rarely finishes outside the top five. This track is perfect for Johnson with his accurate wedge game and smooth putting stroke.
He treats this like one of his biggest weeks of the year, climb aboard.
Chesson Hadley ($7,600) – Hadley, who has rebuilt his game in the past year or so, has simmered all season.
He regularly gets touted by DFS and betting industry types but has not been able to snag a PGA Tour win this season – yet.
Hadley is fourth on Tour for strokes gained: approach and 20th with the flat stick; the perfect recipe.
Wesley Bryan ($7,300) – The former trick shot artist has had a mixed season on Tour.
But the JDC is an event where he can make his mark, as evidenced by back-to-back top-10 finishes here.
Bryan is second in this field for proximity to the hole from 100-125 yards and 125-150 yards. He’s 23rd on Tour for strokes gained: putting.
Kelly Kraft ($6,300) – The streaky American rides to the JDC on the back of a second-place finish at the Greenbrier last week.
Kraft was third at this event two years ago and is inside the top 50 on Tour for strokes gained: putting. I like this price for a player who is arriving with confidence.
Joel Dahmen ($6,100) – This is another play based on form.
Dahmen has made 10 of his past 12 cuts and finished T5 last week. He hits approaches nicely and while his putting isn’t world-class, you can’t have everything for a player at this price.
Corey Conners ($5,800) – The Canadian has made 18 cuts from 23 events during a solid rookie season.
Again, he’s another player who shifts from my putting narrative but he is so consistent tee-to-green that I am willing to take a risk.
If he can just get some putts to drop then he will be fine. He ranks inside the top 50 on Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green, which puts him in the upper echelon of that metric in this field.
David Hearn ($5,800) – It’s the Canadians drawing my attention in the $5K range.
Hearn’s approach game makes him attractive at this price and he has made three of his past four cuts here, including a playoff loss in 2013.
Seamus Power ($5,700) – If you want a guy that can putt then Power is your guy.
The Irishman can make birdies in bunches and he’s 18th on Tour in strokes gained: putting this season. The flat stick is his biggest weapon and he won’t be a popular play.
Piece of Chalk: Zach Johnson ($9,000) will be popular but you can’t ignore what he has done here.
Scrub-A-Dub: Is there a chance that Corey Conners‘ putter can heat up this week at only $5,800?