John Deere Classic Preview

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From one birdie fest to another, it's hard for superintendents to slow these pros down when the temperatures start rising.

The grounds crew needs to heavily water the greens when summer rolls around, to prevent them from dying out. Once you give PGA TOUR pros soft targets to hit into, it's game over.

It's no surprise then to see that winners have eclipsed the 20-under mark in nine of the last 11 playings of the John Deere Classic.

With that in mind, let's hop right in and talk about the course as a field of 156 golfers preps for the week. As usual, the top 65 and ties will advance through the cutline to play the weekend.

The Course

TPC Deere Run is a par 71 that plays up to 7,268 yards when the PGA TOUR strolls through.

The Illinois native, D.A. Weibring, was the architect responsible for Deere Run and he wanted to bring an "old-time feel" to the layout despite it being constructed in the 1990s.

It is tree-lined but not tight. The landing areas are very generous so golfers hit most of their approaches from the short stuff during tournament week. The field averages over 70 percent of fairways hit here and their GIR rate from the fairways at TPC Deere Run sits around 78 percent.

While the fairways are wide, there are also loads of fairway bunkers to get in your way, so golfers that can handle themselves from the sand should enjoy the test.

The hole-by-hole setup puts a lot of wedges into the hands of golfers and that results in lots of birdie-or-better looks. With so many short irons and wedges, it eliminates the need for power off the tee. Sure, big hitters can always find an edge or two from tee-to-green over the course of a round, but the edge is not extreme at a course like this.

Just look at the list of winners and you'll quickly see that short hitters are very much in play this week.

What about the par 5s? Well, that is another reason the shorter hitters enjoy this course because all three are feastable for everyone in the field. Two of the three check-in under 540 yards and feature birdie-or-better rates over 40 percent. While the third stretches out past 600 yards but still allows birdies and eagles for around 33 percent of participants.

What about the grass types? As you'd expect in the Midwest, they are dealing with turf that needs to handle extreme temperature fluctuations. That means bentgrass fairways and greens with kentucky bluegrass rough. The greens are slightly smaller than TOUR average but play larger because of the receptiveness generally seen at the event. They can ramp up the green speeds over 12 feet on the stimp when the weather allows so comfort on fast greens is a nice thing to have this week, as well.

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Course Quotes

Sifting through some past quotes, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.

Michael Kim: "If you look at kind of the guys that have done well here going back, guys like Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson, Jordan Spieth, you know, guys that don’t necessarily bomb the ball, but with good wedge game and putting they can do good out here."

Wesley Bryan: "It’s nice having really good bent greens to putt on that are soft so you don’t really have to worry about the ball rolling out or skipping through the green or anything. You can just kind of take dead aim and hit it."

Patrick Rodgers: "It’s a tricky balance because this course is not that easy. The reason the scores are lower is because the greens are softer and there is typically not a whole lot wind. The rough is up and it’s not a piece of cake. You just have to play some good golf and be good with your wedge game when you have some opportunities from the fairway. "

Ryan Moore: "The golf course has enough angles, and the holes that you can force it down there a little bit farther, they’re pretty difficult tee shots, so guys that hit it significantly farther than me don’t have a huge advantage on a golf course like this."

Tom Gillis: "I think your wedge game. You get a lot of short irons, so your wedge game inside — seem to get a lot of shots inside 140 yards. If you got that dialed in and you can convert making eight-, ten-footers, you got a shot at shooting something low. "

Recap: Plenty of talk about wedge play, not needing distance, and bentgrass greens that roll beautifully.

Correlated Courses

Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week:

Sea Island Resort
TPC River Highlands
Golf Club of Houston
Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead)
Silverado Resort and Spa

The ideal fit features bentgrass greens with easy-to-hit fairways, lots of wedges, and soft greens. These courses don't check every box but they show a large overlap when it comes to success and failure are TPC Deere Run. The newer events in the area played at Detroit Golf Club and TPC Twin Cities show a decent correlation but not much of a sample yet. I wouldn't fault you if you wanted to include either or both of those events into your search, as well.

The Weather

Thursday: Overcast with a high of 76 degrees. Winds at 8 to 12 MPH.

Friday: Overcast with a high of 82 degrees. Winds at 4 to 8 MPH.

The temperatures look rather mild this week but the threat of rain increases over the weekend. That's not good news any week but especially not on a week played directly before a major championship that requires travel halfway across the globe.

Golfers to Watch

Zach Johnson
You can't prep for the Fifth Major without mentioning ZJ. For someone who grew up in Cedar Rapids this is as close as it gets for a home game on TOUR. Whether it is the course fit, comfort in the area, or just the fact that he was semi-star playing in a weak field for his entire career, his results at TPC Deere Run leap off the page. Johnson is 15-for-18 at the JDC with six podium finishes including a 2012 victory. He hasn't missed a cut here since the 2007 edition.

Steve Stricker
While Johnson has racked up boatloads of big finishes at TPC Deere Run, it was Stricker that was able to fully cash in on local knowlege, over the course of his career. Stricker went back-to-back-to-back starting at the 2009 John Deere Classic. That wasn't his only taste of success, either. He has collected paychecks in 13 straight showings of this event with eight of those being finishes of T11 or better. The 54-year-old spends most of his time on the Champions circuit now but he does have top 20s in three of his nine starts on the PGA TOUR this season.

Daniel Berger
Starting the week as a betting favorite, Berger has feasted on TPC layouts over the course of his career. That includes a T5 during his 2017 John Deere Classic debut while his only return visit yielded a T33 in 2019.

Doug Ghim
While ZJ and Stricker have made the local knowledge aspect look easy, Ghim did not pop in his 2018 tournament debut, swallowing a mid-tournament WD. Fast forward a few years and Illinois native now a full-time pro and should be arriving with some confidence and comfort in the area. He has gained strokes tee-to-green in 10 of his last 11 starts.

Patrick Rodgers
Sticking with the theme of comfort in the region, this isn't quite a home game for the kid from Indiana but it's not too far away, either. Rodgers missed the cut in three of his first four tries at the JDC but has gone T27-RUNNERUP-T43 in his last three visits. That runner-up finish was about as close as he's gotten to winning on TOUR as he held a two-shot lead after 36 and 54 holes before DeChambeau chased him down on Sunday.

Seamus Power
He didn't need Monday Qualifying or a pre-tourney WD to crack the field this week. The Irishman is one of the hottest golfers in the field right now. He arrives with four straight top 20s, positioning himself at T19 or better in 15 of his last 16 rounds played so it's been steady golf. Power is also 3-for-3 at TPC Deere Run.

Ranking the Field

1. Daniel Berger
2. Brian Harman
3. Sungjae Im
4. Kevin Streelman
5. Russell Henley
6. Cameron Davis
7. Alex Noren
8. Zach Johnson
9. Si Woo Kim
10. Jhonattan Vegas
11. Patton Kizzire
12. Doug Ghim
13. Aaron Wise
14. Harold Varner III
15. Kevin Na
16. Seamus Power
17. Lucas Glover
18. Troy Merritt
19. Hank Lebioda
20. Steve Stricker