Heading to the Midwest this week, TPC Deere Run will host the 2022 John Deere Classic.
This event has historically played the warmup role ahead of The Open Championship with players getting a charter to the links shortly after the tournament ends.
Not this year, as there is a double-event week next week in the lead-up to St. Andrews. In theory, the move on the schedule could have brightened the field for the JDC. Instead, many of the stars took the quick trip from Boston to Cromwell to play last week and are now taking the week off before playing in Scotland. The addition of the LIV Golf event didn't help, either. The result is a field that thins out rather quickly this week.
There is still plenty to play for, though, and it's played on a course that we know very well. Let's get right into it.
TPC Deere Run was laid out around the same time Will Smith was laying down the tracks for Will 2K and it's played the host role since that 2000 edition.
Checking out the scorecard, we see a par-71 layout that plays to 7,289 yards. That's a 21-yard increase over last year, but still not too lengthy by any means.
The par 5s are both reachable for the entire field. There are only three par 4s over 455 yards. The result is a course that doesn't demand power, but is precision a prerequisite? Not particularly.
Off the tee, golfers will see some of the wider fairways they see all year. It leads to the field hitting roughly 10-of-14 fairways per round. A lot of second shots will originate from the short grass.
It's no surprise then to see that the field also finds a very high percentage of greens in regulation (71%). A part of that is being able to attack from the fairways with short irons and another piece of the puzzle is due to the time of year and regional climate. When you head to the Midwest in the summer, you will get heat and humidity and there is only so much a course superintendent can do in terms of aiming for firm conditions while not killing the turf. The result is leaning on the side of caution, heavily watering the greens, and getting soft and receptive conditions.
With target golf in full force, it's inevitable for a handful of pros to get in the zone and rack up barrels of birdies over the course of four days. The winning score has hit or eclipsed 20-under in nine of the last 12 editions.
The bunkers have had a complete makeover since last year. They were reduced in size and repositioned to make the golfers think a little more.
Looking at the turf, golfers will see bentgrass fairways and greens with kentucky bluegrass rough. The target length for the length is a lanky four inches while the greens are prepped to run around 12 feet on the stimp. Not Augusta fast, but leaning to the side of speedy.
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Quotes on the Course
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 if take dead aim and hit it. Ilike the way it looks off the tee as well. You don't have to hit it overly far. That kind of plays into my hand a little bit."
Bryson DeChambeau: "You got to be hitting your wedges really close. If you can do that all week, you'll be just fine. If you can make pars on the tough par-3s and hit it on the fairway, like on 15 every day, land it on the green, two-putt, make your par, get out of there, I think you have a very good chance of playing well here."
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: "You get a lot of short irons, so you 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."
Players talk a lot about wedge play, not needing distance off the tee, and comfort on bentgrass.
Let's look at the leaderboards over the last five years and see where the most crossover success can be found, when it comes to other courses out on TOUR.
PGA WEST Rota
Silverado Resort and Spa
CC of Jackson
The general theme gravitates toward shorter courses with lots of wedges and short irons. Courses where you need to take it low with lots of birdies available.
Thursday: Sunny with a high of 90 degrees. Winds at 10 to 20 MPH.
Friday: Scattered storms possible with a high of 84 degrees. Winds at 5 to 10 MPH.
It's going to be mid-80s most of the week with a chance of storms not likely but always looming.
Golfers to Watch
I don't have an odds database handy but I'd be willing to wager this is the first time that Hadwin has opened as a betting favorite for a PGA TOUR event. He has two top 20s in two tries at TPC Deere Run but hasn't played here since the 2016 edition. He enters with a T7 at the U.S. Open as his latest entry on the game log.
The Wake Forest alum popped into contention last week at TPC River Highlands. It was nice to see after he's battled with injuries for much of the season. We don't get injury reports on the PGA TOUR but it appears that his body is feeling good as he readies to play a third week in a row now. Simpson is making his fourth appearance at this event but first since the 2010 edition.
He nearly crossed the line last week in Cromwell but doubled the final hole to settle for a share of second place. That sounds a bit like Mito Pereira at the PGA Championship. Pereira followed that up with a T7 the very next week so it will be interesting to see if the young Theegala can dismiss the tough finish just as easily.
The Stanford standout is an Indiana native so this is a comfortable region for him. He's shown up here in the past with four top 30s in eight tries at the JDC. That includes a career-best runner-up finish back in 2017. He's still searching for that breakout win.
While the young Thorbjornsen impressed last week at the Travelers, Gotterup has been quietly impressing this season, as well. Gotterup has carded more birdies than the field in 8-of-14 rounds this season, proving to be a valuable option for weekly fantasy gamers. The youngster just saw Thorbjornsen contend last week and likely feels like he's just as good if not better than him based on collegiate results. That could provide a needed confidence boost heading into the week.
He'll be a fan favorite as an Illinois native and Fighting Illini alum. He arrives with back-to-back top 15s on his game log.
Ranking the Field
1. Webb Simpson
2. Christiaan Bezuidenhout
3. Adam Hadwin
4. Maverick McNealy
5. Denny McCarthy
6. Charles Howell III
7. Jason Day
8. Sahith Theegala
9. Cam Davis
10. Lucas Glover
11. Adam Long
12. Scott Stallings
13. Adam Svensson
14. Brendon Todd
15. Lanto Griffin
16. Nick Hardy
17. Patrick Rodgers
18. Chad Ramey
19. Kevin Streelman
20. Chez Reavie