Before we travel to Royal Portrush for The Open Championship next week, our fourth and final major of the season, we make our way to Silivs, Illinois, for The 2019 John Deere Classic. This event is held at TPC Deere Run (par 71, 7,268 yards), which has been the host course since 2000. Michael Kim ran away with this tournament last season (-27) and four of the last five John Deere winners have shot -20 or lower.
As you may have guessed from this stat, TPC Deere Run isn’t a difficult track. The fairways are very easy to hit and it is all about your irons and putting at this birdie fest. Last season, Kim ranked 3rd in GIR in his win and four of the last five champs have been T11 or better in greens found, with Ryan Moore (2016) and Brian Harman (2014) leading their fields. Additionally, Kim gained the most strokes on these bent grass greens at TPC Deere Run a year ago and all of the last four winners have ranked inside the top eight in SGP. Finally, Kim led his field in total birdies and in scoring on the par fives. You need to be an elite birdie maker to contend at a shootout like this and taking advantage of the three par fives at TPC Deere Run is essential if you want to climb the leaderboard.
As for the field? Unfortunately, this is undoubtedly the weakest on The PGA schedule this season. All of the best players in the world are either preparing for The Open or teeing it up at The Scottish Open, leaving us with a field headlined by rookie golfers. The 3M Open winner, Mathew Wolff we be making his 5th career PGA start following his win this past weekend, and he, Viktor Hovland, Sungjae Im, and Collin Morikawa round out the favorites to win this year’s John Deere Classic. There are 156 golfers in total and the top 70 and ties will be competing on the weekend for the main prize. @Hunta512.
Collin Morikawa: (10,700)
Wolff picked up the win last weekend, but Morkiawa also made some serious noise at The 3M Open. He, Wolff and Bryson DeChambeau were all tied for the lead heading into the final round this past Sunday and if Wolff didn’t nail an eagle putt on the 18th, Morkiawa could have easily won the event in a three man playoff, after shooting rounds of 64 and 66 over the weekend.
This T2 is the 22 year old’s best career finish and he is now 5/5 on the Tour this season. After a T64 in his first event of the year, The Arnold Palmer Invitational, Morikawa has carded finishes of T14, T35, T36, and T2 in his last four. He led the field in SG APP last week and is 1st in this stat when we compare all of these golfers last 12 rounds.
Furthermore, the rookie is 3rd in SGT2G, 2nd in BS, and 1st in BOB% over this stretch. As of Tuesday night, Hovland and Morikawa are tied for the best odds to capture a win this Sunday (both 16/1 via Bovada), but I believe the latter, at a $200 discount, is the better choice of the two.
Joaquin Niemann: (10,200)
While the rookies have been getting most of the buzz, Niemann has also been playing some tremendous golf. He has made six cuts in a row, with two top fives and no finishes worse than T31 during this run. Over this time, Niemann has gained more total strokes than any other player competing this week and he is at his best on bent grass greens.
This season, he has an average finish of 21.5 place when competing on bent grass and at last year’s John Deere Classic, which was his debut at this event, Niemann recorded a very respectable T25. He should have an even better showing this time around and I am expecting nothing less than a top 20 from the budding star.
Sung-jae Im: (9,700)
Im hit a bad rough patch back in May, missing three cuts in a row, but he has looked outstanding over the last two months. He has made five straight cuts and has finished T21 or better in his past four. His GIR rate has improved each week over the last three and he has been doing most of his damage on par fives. (2nd in SG on P5s in L24 rounds)
This will be Im’s first crack at TPC Deere Run, but he should have no issues racking up birdies and shining on this easy track.
Brian Harman: (9,400)
Harman was right in the mix this past weekend at The 3M Open (T7) and this was his second top ten in his last three starts. (T8 at The Travelers) Overall, he is five for his last six and Harman has always enjoyed playing at TPC Deere Run.
He is 4/6 here, with a win in 2014 and no finishes worse than T21 in those four made cuts. His ball striking has been solid recently (17th in SGT2G, 7th in GIR and 17th in BS in L24 rounds) and if Harman can avoid blowing up, he could easily tally another top ten in this soft field.
Mackenzie Hughes: (7,900)
For his recent form, there is no way Hughes should be this cheap. He has made five consecutive cuts and is nine for his last 11. Over this span, he has shown upside, with four top 15s.
He is averaging a respectable 4.0 total strokes gained across his past five events and this will be his second time at TPC Deere Run, with a T8 here last season already under his belt. He is never a popular play and this is a prime time to attack Hughes and his safety.
Cameron Tringale: (7,700)
Nobody in this field rates higher in my stat model than Tringale. He ranks 8th in SGT2G, 8th in SG APP, 4th in GIR, 13th in BS, 5th in BOB%, 12th in SG on P5s, and 42nd in SGP over his last 24 rounds, helping him to make six of his last eight cuts, with four top 25 finishes.
He has positively gained strokes T2G in five straight starts and Tringale has a 2/4 record at TPC Deere Run, with his best being a T9 in 2011. His price hasn’t budged since last week, even though this is a weaker field, making Tringale a value that needs to be utilized.
Vaughn Taylor: (7,700)
Taylor has been a reliable fantasy option recently (10 for last 13, with five top 20s) and his experience should show in this field. For his career, he is 8/12 at The John Deere Classic and has finished in the top 20 in four of those appearances.
He has only missed one cut in his last six attempts at TPC Deere Run and Taylor has been strong with his approaches (13th in SG APP), putting (6th in SGP), and par five play (20th in SG on P5s) during this current six made cut streak that he is on. $7,700 is simply too low of a price for him right now and another top 20 is certainly possible for Taylor this weekend.
Sam Ryder: (7,500)
Ryder was one of the four players to tie for second at last year’s John Deere Classic. This was his first start at the event and while I don’t expect another runner up this weekend, Ryder is in good enough form to produce a quality finish. He is 18 for his last 22 and for a more recent sample, he has proceeded to the weekend four times in his past five events.
He has gained strokes with his approaches in five consecutive tournaments and Ryder’s 4.9 total strokes gained at The 3M open last weekend (T34) is the most he has produced since last November. He is currently tied for the best odds of all the players $7,500 or lower (66/1 via Bovada) and a solid target for all formats.
Sepp Straka: (7,300)
Putting is important at TPC Deere Run and Straka’s recent work on the greens has been awful (102 in SGP in L24 rounds), but this is about the only flaw in his game right now. He is four for his last seven and ranks 7th in SGT2G, 7th in GIR, 7th in BS, 14th in BOB%, and 15th in SG on P5s over his last 24 rounds.
Plus, there is a chance that Straka’s putting could improve this week, with his only positive splits coming on bent grass greens. This is obviously no guarantee, but at this low of a price, Straka is a worthwhile risk.
Joey Garber: (7,300)
Garber just had his best week of the year at The 3M Open (T7) and will hopefully ride this momentum into his second start at a John Deere Classic. (T72 last season) He has been dialed in with his irons (80.6% GIR rate in last two and 4th in BS in L12 rounds) and I know I sound like a broken record, but this already solid putter (57th in SGP in L24 rounds) rolls it best on bent grass surfaces. (his only positive split this season)
He has only missed one cut in his last five and Garber brings much better upside than his cheap salary would suggest. (no finishes worse than T29 in his last four made cuts)
Hank Lebioda: (7,100)
Lebioda bounced back from his MC at The Rocket Mortgage Classic, with a T34 last week at The 3M Open. This was his 10th made cut in his last 13 starts and Lebioda should be able to make the cut at TPC Deere Run, regardless of this being his first attempt in Illinois.
He is a steady iron player (15th in SGT2G and 10th in SG APP in L24 rounds), that knows how to score, particularly on par fives. (6th in BOB% and 21st in SG on P5s in L24 rounds) He shot under par in all four rounds last week and Lebioda should make DraftKings look silly for pricing him this low.
Josh Teater: (6,700)
Prior to missing the weekend at The 3M Open, Teater was riding a four made cut streak heading into TPC Twin Cities. He should recover at The John Deere Classic, with a 4/5 record at this event on his resume.
Plus, two weeks ago at The Rocket Mortgage Classic, Teater generated a T35, behind some very encouraging ball striking. (6.7 SGT2G) His ceiling isn’t great, but Teater should do his part and get us four rounds of golf.
*Please note that some of these rankings are from Fantasynational.com