Nothing runs like a Deere, and the John Deere Classic has been running on the PGA Tour schedule for more than 50 years.
It has been staged at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois, since 2000. On more than 20 occasions, the tournament has been held the week before The Open Championship, but that’s not the case this year as the PGA Tour and DP World Tour are co-hosting the Scottish Open next week, which will precede The Open at St. Andrews.
A watered-down field is not atypical for the John Deere Classic, but this year it reaches new lows with the Scottish Open taking its place as precursor to The Open. Webb Simpson is the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 58. Sahith Theegala checks in at No. 66 and Christiaan Bezuidenhout at No. 75. Opportunity knocks this week for players outside of the Top 100, with exemption status and a Masters invite on the line.
The good news for bettors is the course is fair and consistent year in and year out. The winning score is normally around 20-under par and rarely wavers. The winning score prop at the Superbook is 263.5, or 20.5-under par, so it’s a birdie-fest. The fairways are tree-lined but relatively forgiving. The Bentgrass greens are bigger than average without much undulation. The course’s mild defenses are elevation changes, thick rough and well-positioned water hazards.
Neither length nor accuracy off the tee seem to matter much around Deere Run. Approach shots, a good short game and a hot putter is your typical winning formula. As far as comparable courses, I looked at TPC River Highlands (host of last week's Travelers Championship), Colonial and Silverado.
Here are the full tournament head-to-head matchups I considered and those that I played this week:
Considered (28-27-2 YTD)
— Christiaan Bezuidenhout (+ 105) over Jason Day
— Patrick Rodgers (-115) over Scott Stallings
— Adam Schenk (-120) over C.T. Pan
— Sam Ryder (-115) over Scott Piercy
Played (26-23-1 YTD)
— Doug Ghim (-115) over Emiliano Grillo. These two are close in some of the stats I looked at but Ghim has a decided advantage in some of the most important areas. Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green has been a strong indicator for recent winners at Deere Run and Ghim ranks sixth in the field over his last 24 rounds (Grillo ranks 111th). I also want someone who is strong on the Par 4s, as there are 11 of them on this Par 71, and Ghim ranks second in the field to Grillo's 110th. Finally, for Strokes Gained: Total, Ghim is ninth while Grillo is 34th.
— Austin Smotherman (+ 105) over Robert Streb. This is a sizable mismatch according to my numbers and Smotherman ought to be the favorite. In 21 tournaments played this season with a 36-hole cut, Streb has missed the cut 13 times. He's missed the cut at the John Deere in four of the last five years and finished 74th the year he made the weekend. Smotherman, meanwhile, has been in pretty good form, having made five cuts in a row before that streak ended at the Travelers due to one subpar round.
Don't miss this week's edition of “LongShots” for all the plays from myself, Wes Reynolds, Matt Youmans and our special guest, Lew Ford, available at VSiN.com/podcasts.