With Ted Potter Jr. winning his first career event at last week's Greenbrier Classic, the PGA Tour now moves to Illinois for the 2012 John Deere Classic. Steve Striker will be looking to defend his title against a solid field that includes five of the top 25 players on the PGA Tour money list this year. What follows are the top three players to watch when the event kicks off.
Stricker has followed up a great year in 2011 with another solid one in 2012, with a win and 10 cuts made in 11 starts on the PGA Tour to this point. He has finished in the top 25 over his past two starts, with the most notable one being a T15 finish at the U.S. Open after shooting a first round 76. Steve only drives it about 280 yards on average, but has a solid all-around golf game from tee to green, and that should certainly help him to compete at this week's event. I would expect for him to finish within the top 25 again, with the putter being the determining factor of whether or not he can defend his title.
Like Striker, Johnson already has a win on the year (at the Crowne Plaza Invitational in late May), along with two runner up finishes and seven top 25 finishes in 15 starts on the PGA Tour. I think he has a chance to score well and finish high this week, as TPC Deere Run requires accuracy off the tee first and foremost, and Johnson has hit nearly 70% of the fairways on average this year. He has a great putter as well, ranking in the top five in strokes gained from putting, but has struggled a bit with the irons and will need to give himself more birdie opportunities if he wants to win this week.
One wild card player to watch this week is Camilo Villegas, who has sort of faded off the map in recent years. He only has eight cuts made in 17 starts on the year, but three of those eight cuts have been top 25 finishes, so he has really been a streaky player this year. What I like about his game is that he ranks near the top 50 in both driving accuracy and greens in regulation, although he has struggled mightily with the putter this year. If he can figure out how to master the greens at this week's event I think he could certainly be a player to watch come Sunday.
Ryan Kekoufski is a scratch golfer who has both played and watched the sport for well over a decade.