The PGA Tour takes in it's traditional pre-Open Championship stop-off at Deere Run and our man has the lowdown. Read the comprehensive preview ahead of Thursday's start...
"This event is basically a birdie-fest where the most important weapon is a hot putter. Kim ranked first for Putting Average and for Strokes Gained Putting, the first two home in 2017 ranked second and first for SGP and the average Putting Average ranking of the last ten winners is 8.5."
Originally known as the Quad Cities Open, the John Deere Classic was first staged as a satellite tournament on the PGA Tour way back in 1971. It became an official event 12 months later.
Initially played at the Crow Valley Country Club in Davenport, Iowa, the tournament moved to Oakwood Country Club in Illinois in 1975 and since 2000 its permanent home has been here at Deere Run.
Apart from 2016, when the event got switched to August to accommodate the Olympics, the tournament had been staged in the week before the Open Championship every year this century and in attempt to keep the field here strong, since 2008, a special charter plane has been taking Open entrants straight to Britain immediately after the event on Sunday night.
Francesco Molinari went on to win the Open the following week after finishing tied for second here last year and Zach Johnson won at St Andrews in 2015, a week after finishing third at Deere Run.
TPC Deere Run, Silvis, Illinois
Par 71 - 7,268 yards
Stroke Index in 2018 - 69.38
Designed by D.A Weibring and sitting on old Native American settlements, TPC Deere Run is a very easy track indeed, where low scores are very much the norm. Chad Campbell fired a 62 in the third round five years ago but that wasn't even the best of the day as Scott Brown shot 61 and that was the same score that Jordan Spieth shot in round three - four years ago. Paul Goydos shot 59 here in 2010 and last year's surprise winner, Michael Kim, amassed an incredible 27-under-par total with rounds of 63, 64, 64 and 66.
Water is in play on five holes and the average-sized bentgrass greens usually run at around 11 on the stimpmeter. The two nines end with the two hardest holes on the course but they're far from impossible. The par four ninth averaged 4.21 and the par four 18th averaged 4.25 12 months ago. It really is an easy course for pro golfers and only six holes averaged more than their par last year.
Live on Sky Sports all four days. Featured Group coverage begins at 13:00 UK time on Thursday and the full coverage begins at 21:00.
Last Five Winners
2013 - Michael Kim -27
2017 - Bryson DeChambeau -18
2016 - Ryan Moore -22
2015 - Jordan Spieth - 20 (playoff)
2014 - Brian Harman -22
What Will it Take to Win the John Deere Classic?
The last ten winners here have had an average Driving Distance ranking of 24.5 and an average Driving Accuracy ranking of 31 so what you do off the tee is largely unimportant - although I'd slightly favour length over accuracy.
With incredible course form figures, Zach Johnson's slight lack of length has arguably held him back here and it's probably the reason he's only ever won the title once. He only ranked 47th for DD when he won here in 2012 and 34th (Ryan Moore three years ago) is the next worst DD ranking for a winner in the last decade but it's hardly a vital stat. No winner in the last ten years has ranked any better than 12th for DD.
Last year's winner, Kim, only ranked 27th for Driving Distance but that was by some margin his worst statistical ranking for the week. Kim ranked second for D.A and that was the best any of the last ten winners have ranked for that stat. Brian Harman, who ranked eighth, and Ryan Moore, who ranked 10th, are the only other winners in the last ten years to rank inside the top-ten for Driving Accuracy and Steve Striker and Jordan Spieth have both taken the title here having ranked in the 60s for DA.
Harman and Moore continued the accuracy theme and both ranked first for Greens In Regulation and no winner in the last ten years has ranked worse than 34th for GIR (Spieth). Kim ranked third 12 months ago but the GIR average ranking for the ten is still only 17.5 and this event is basically a birdie-fest where the most important weapon is a hot putter. Kim ranked first for Putting Average and for Strokes Gained Putting, the first two home in 2017 ranked second and first for SGP and the average Putting Average ranking of the last ten winners is 8.5.
Is There an Angle In?
Form at Colonial Country Club, home of the Charles Schwab Challenge, is worth close scrutiny. Since this event moved to Deere Run, Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson, Kenny Perry and Jordan Spieth have won both tournaments and Tim Clark has come close to winning both, finishing runner-up in each event.
Sean O'Hair, who won this tournament in 2005, finished tied for second in the 2017 Charles Schwab Challenge, alongside Deere Run specialist, Jordan Spieth, and the 2014 JDC winner, Brian Harman, finished tied for seventh alongside Stricker.
Check out Valspar Championship form too as four men have won that tournament as well as this one - the aforementioned Spieth, John Senden, Sean O'Hair and Vijay Singh.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Last year's winner must go down as one of the strangest ever winners on the PGA Tour. Matched at 800.0799/1 before the off, Kim came into the event with form figures reading MC-MC-18-MC-MC-MC and since his victory he's missed 22 of 27 cuts! He's played 17 times so far this year and he's yet to make it to the weekend.
Brian Harman was also a triple-figure price five years ago but you have to go all the way back to 2001 to find the previous winner to go off at more than a double-digit price. Dave Gossett was around the 125/1 mark. DeChambeau was a 50/1 chance two years ago and Spieth was 40/1 when he won his first PGA Tour title here in 2013 but in the main, those at the very front of the market have prospered of late.
An American has won the last 12 renewals and there have only been seven overseas winners in the event's 47-year history.
This is a great place for up and coming players and four of the last six winners have been getting off the mark on the PGA Tour. In addition to the top-class Scott Hoch, who really should have won the 1989 US Masters, major champions, David Toms, Jordan Spieth and Payne Stewart all won their first PGA Tour titles at the John Deere Classic and it would be no surprise at all if the 2017 winner, Bryson DeChambeau, went on to win a major.
Kim absolutely pulverised the field last year. He sat second and just a stroke off the lead after round one, was three clear after round two and five in front after round three. He went on to win by eight and we have to go all the way back to 1981 to find the last player to win this title from outside the top-ten places with a round to go but that doesn't mean we haven't witnessed plenty of drama.
Jordan Spieth was six back with 18 to play in 2013 but he birdied five of the last six to claim his first title and he confounded the stats two years later when he sat tied for 101st and eight adrift after round one but led by two after round three following a 64 in round two and a 61 in round three, proving a slow start can be overcome.
Spieth's dramatic finish wasn't the first exciting finale and it certainly won't be the last. In fact, the 2017 finish was quite something...
Zach Johnson was the first to trade low when he hit 2.526/4 with a three-foot putt to take the lead on the par four 14th but he missed that, bogeyed the 15th and was eventually beaten by three. Daniel Berger then hit a low of 2.6213/8 and Patrick Rodgers was matched at just 1.21/5, before he lost his way on the par five 17th. DeChambeau's finish wasn't too dissimilar to Spieth's in 2013 as he birdied seven of the last ten holes.
This is the weakest renewal of the John Deere Classic that I can remember and as a result, dynamic young guns, Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa head the market. Both have impressed greatly in their oh-so-short PGA Tour careers to date and as highlighted above, Deere Run has already produced a number of top-class young winners but these guys are just too short for me. Both are more than half the price DeChambeau was he won and considerably shorter than Spieth.
Joaquin Niemann, now in his second season on the PGA Tour, finished tied for 23rd last year, and at only 20, the Chilean also fits the promising youngster profile\. He started too slowly last week to contend and eventually finished tied for 28th, having finished fifth in his two previous outings. His chance is obvious but again, his price is off-putting.
I was a little surprised to see veteran course specialist, Zach Johnson, as big as 46.045/1 so I've had a small wager on him and I've had an equally small bet on Sam Burns. I've backed Burns several times so don't want to leave him out after his seventh last week, despite a poor third round, but I'm not convinced he's putting quite well enough to be considered value at 50.049/1 and others look better value.
Wyndham Clark was a very popular pick last week and he played well again, eventually finishing fifth after a 15th place in the Travelers Championship and 17th in the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He lost his way off the tee on the back-nine last week but he hits it miles and he's putting really well. I'm a little surprised how well his price has held up compared to the other contenders from last week and 55.054/1 looked fair.
Doc Redman missed the cut in Minnesota last week after a disastrous 77 in round one but that wasn't a huge shock. He'd contended at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, where he finished second, the week before and it's often the case that a poor round follows a good week. His second round 69 was too little too late but the 21-year-old South Carolinian looks worth chancing at a big price given his recent putting stats.
With so many promising youngsters in-the-mix last week, Joey Garber's seventh-place finish went almost unnoticed and he's far bigger on the exchange here than he is on the High St, so he's clearly going under the radar. That seventh was a cracking effort given he opened the event with a 73 before three 65s and it didn't come out of the blue entirely. He's also finished inside the top-30 at both the Canadian Open and the Rocket Mortgage Classic in the last month.
And finally, big-hitting Argentine, Andres Romero, has been putting brilliantly on the European Tour over the last three weeks and he was seventh here 12 months ago and I thought that was enough to justify a small play at a big price.
Zach Johnson @ 46.045/1
Sam Burns @ 50.049/1
Wyndham Clark @ 55.054/1
Doc Redman @ 140.0139/1
Joey Garber @ 180.0179/1
Andres Romero @ 250.0249/1
I'll be back with the In-Play Blog on Thursday or Friday.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter