John Deere Classic: Zach Johnson value at anything over 9/1, says The Punter

Zach Johnson – The Punter’s pick at Deere Run
Zach Johnson – The Punter’s pick at Deere Run

Steve takes a detailed look at this week's PGA Tour action in Illinois where he fancies in-form course specialist, Zach Johnson, to go well again. Read his comprehensive tournament guide here...


“With such brilliant course and current form, I think Zach Johnson represents value at anything over 10.09/1 and I’m more than happy to go with him from the get-go.”

Tournament History

In existence since 1971, the John Deere Classic began life as the Quad Cities Open. It was originally played at the Crow Valley Country Club in Davenport, Iowa, before it moved to Oakwood Country Club in Illinois in 1975. Since 2000 its permanent home has been at Deere Run.

Since 2008, a plane has been chartered to fly any competitors playing in next week's Open Championship straight to the UK on Sunday night and the quality of the field has improved as a result.


Venue

TPC Deere Run, Silvis, Illinois


Course Details

Par 71 - 7,268 yards
Stroke Index in 2014 - 69.76

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 round three 12 months ago but that wasn't even the best of the day as Scott Brown shot 61 and Paul Goydos shot 59 here in 2010.

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 4 18th ranked the hardest on the course last year but at 4.24, it only just averaged over-par. The par 4 9th ranked the 2nd hardest but only averaged 4.22 and only six of the 18 averaged over-par for the week with the par 5 2nd hole averaging only 4.53 strokes.


Useful Sites

Event Site
Course Site
Twitter Link
Tee Times
Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting on Thursday.


Last Five Winners

2014 - Brian Harman -22
2013 - Jordan Spieth - 19 (playoff)
2012 - Zach Johnson -20 (Playoff)
2011 - Steve Stricker -22
2010 - Steve Stricker -26


What Will it Take to Win The John Deere Classic?

Brian Harmon won last year courtesy of an accurate all round game. He ranked 8th for Driving Accuracy and first for Greens In Regulation and yet only 29th for Scrambling and 63rd for Strokes Gained Putting. Statistically, he was an anomaly on a number of counts.

The eight winners before him had an average DA ranking of 37.65, an average GIR ranking of 21, an average Scrambling ranking of 10 and a Putting Average ranking of 11.75. Most years, what you do off the tee is largely irrelevant and it's all about finding as many greens as possible, scrambling well when greens are missed, and putting the lights out. It's basically just a birdie-fest and how you play the easiest holes - the three par 5s - is usually vital.

Jordan Speith only ranked 30th for par 5 scoring two years ago - playing them in six-under-par for the week - but the previous 10 winners played them in at least eight-under-par and Harmon played them in 11-under 12 months ago - making three eagles!


Is There an Angle In?

Form at Colonial Country Club, home of the Crowne Plaza Invitational, might be worth close scrutiny. Since this event moved to Deere Run, Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson and Kenny Perry have won both tournaments and the 2013 John Deere winner, Spieth, was beaten by just a stroke in this year's Crown Plaza. Tim Clark has come close to winning both tournaments, finishing runner-up in both.


Is There an Identikit Winner?

Between 1999 and 2006, six winners broke their PGA Tour duck in this event and Spieth and Harman were both winning their first PGA Tour titles when they triumphed here so it's definitely a good event to get off the mark, but with Perry, Stricker and Johnson winning the five renewals between 2008 and 2012, veterans have also prospered.

An American has won the last eight renewals and there have only been seven overseas winners in the event's 44 year history.


In-Play Tactics

Harman led after day one last year and after being headed at halfway, he was back in front after the third round but a slow start can be overcome. Stricker and Johnson have both won recently having trailed by seven strokes after round one and Spieth trailed by six after the opening day two years ago.

Spieth also trailed by six shots after round three in 2014 and a year earlier Zach won having trailed by four strokes through 54 holes. Sean O'Hair won in 2005 from five back and in 2004 John E Morgan lost a playoff to Mark Hensby having trailed by five with a round to go. Hensby himself had trailed by four so there are plenty of examples of players winning form off the pace.


Market Leaders

At first glance, Jordan Spieth looks very short at less than 5.04/1 but the price is about right. Had he started a bit quicker last year (opened with a level par 71) he may well have defended his title and this course clearly suits his eye.

I'm surprised that he's playing in the event so soon before the Open Championship, as Todd Hamilton is the only Open winner to have played in the States the week before in over 30 years and the Scottish Open makes for a far better prep but the fact that he's here shows how much he likes the event. I can live without backing anyone at a short price before the off but I wouldn't put anyone off him.

Steve Stricker won the event for three years running between 2009 and 2011 but the standing dish at Deere Run now is Zach Johnson who has finished inside the first three in five of the last six renewals. He comes here this year on the top of his game having finished 6th at the Travelers Championship and 5th at the Byron Nelson Championship, either side of the US Open, and he looks highly likely to contend again this time around.

Kevin Kisner lost his third playoff in four months on Sunday at the Greenbrier Classic and it's surely only a matter of time before he makes his breakthrough. He finished last year's renewal with a seven-under-par 64 to make the top-20 after missing the cut in his only two previous visits here in 2011 and 2012 so his course form is far from spectacular.

The week after his first two playoff disappointments he finished 28th at the Zurich Classic and 28th at the Wells Fargo and I suspect another slightly disappointing effort may be on the cards here and he makes no appeal at around 20.019/1.


Selection

With such brilliant course and current form, I think Zach Johnson represents value at anything over 10.09/1 and I'm more than happy to go with him from the get-go.

I'm still trawling through the field and if I back anyone else I'll tweet them out and update the preview but I may just go with Johnson before the off and take it from there.


Selection:
Zach Johnson @ 14.013/1


I'll be back tomorrow with my Scottish Open preview.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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