Picks and tips: Harman leads the Deere pack

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After a one-year hiatus, the PGA Tour is back in the Quad Cities.

The John Deere Classic was nixed last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but TPC Deere Run is back on the schedule this week ahead of the year's final major. It's a place and a tournament that have embraced their spot on the calendar and should do so again this week given the missing action from last summer.

Dylan Frittelli is back to defend the title he won in 2019 against a field that includes just five of the world's top 50 players. But some of those names are among the most likely contenders, including betting favorite Daniel Berger. But I'm going in a different direction with my selections, starting with a player who earned his first Tour win at this event seven years ago:

To Win (odds via PointsBet Sportsbook)

Brian Harman (+1400): Harman notched the first of his two career Tour wins here back in 2014, and it has been a happy hunting ground ever since. Five of his seven appearances at TPC Deere Run have gone for T-26 or better, and now he enters on a months-long run of form that makes him (deservedly) the second favorite on the board behind Berger.

Harman tops the field over the last 50 years in SG: Short Game, sits second in SG: Total and Around the Green and 10th in Tee-to-Green. He essentially hasn't let up much since a surprising T-3 finish at The Players, with three straight finishes of T-19 or better. That includes a T-5 finish last time out at the Travelers, another venue that yielded plenty of birdies. Harman is 13th this season on Tour in SG: Putting and should make more than his fair share on the greens this week in Moline.

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Zach Johnson (+5000): I have a simple rule in life, and that is when someone offers you +5000 on Zach Johnson at TPC Deere Run, you take it and don't ask questions. Yes, this number is far shorter than we're used to seeing ZJ these days. There's ample reason for that, given he only has one top-10 finish in his last 15 starts and hasn't won since The Open in 2015. But this is the Deere we're talking about.

Johnson has become a de facto ambassador in the Quad Cities, boasting a record that includes a win in 2012 among seven top-10 finishes. But this is still a big number for him at this event - two years ago, when he was still mired in somewhat of a slump, he went off around +2500. He's coming off a T-25 finish at the Travelers and has generally shown signs of a turnaround this year, stringing together 14 straight made cuts before an early exit at Valero in April. He's starting to play well at the tried and true ZJ events, places like Sea Island (T-6), and this more than fits the bill. A good week should include a top-10 finish and could include a drought-breaking win.

Jhonattan Vegas (+5000): This week I want someone with some solid form who can go crazy low. Vegas fits the bill, with six straight made cuts and two top-10 finishes in his last four starts including a runner-up at Congaree. He also has some promising results in the Quad Cities, finishing T-3 in 2014 after going 63-65 over the weekend. In his most recent appearance back in 2018, he shot a blistering 62 in the second round. The Venezuelan leads the field in SG: Off-the-Tee over the last 50 rounds and sits second in ball-striking over that same time frame.

Vegas is one of the best drivers on Tour, ranking fourth off the tee this season, and he has some promising recent results on his side. It'll come down to whether or not the putter cooperates, but this is historically a place where he has managed to pour them in for at least one round. If he does it with more consistency, he could move into the mix for what would be a fourth career win on Tour.

Top-10 Finishes

Tyler Duncan (+1100): I'm inclined to get a little more aggressive with my top-10 wagers given the makeup of this event, and the penchant for seeing some surprises at TPC Deere Run (I'm looking at you, Tom Gillis and Michael Kim). I'll start with Duncan, a winner in 2018 at Sea Island who has made the cut in each of his last three starts but has failed to make much of a weekend move in each instance. He has some promising results at the Deere, finishing T-12 and T-26 in his two prior starts while spinning a round of 8-under 63 each year over the weekend. It creates a promising situation where Duncan's recent form should be enough to get him a weekend tee time, and his history at TPC Deere Run shows that he can go low once he gets there. Relatively speaking, Duncan has some solid tee-to-green stats and his putting tends to perk up in the Quad Cities.

Sam Ryder (+1200): Ryder is 32 under across 144 holes at TPC Deere Run, finishing T-2 here in his 2018 debut and following it up with a T-18 finish two years ago. Ryder has been in the 60s in all eight of his rounds at this event, and more recently he has demonstrated an ability to hang around on Tour leaderboards: top-10 results at the Farmers and Honda, plus a runner-up finish at Punta Cana. The results have dried up since then, with missed cuts in seven of his last nine starts, but he did see the weekend at both Congaree and TPC River Highlands and this is a venue that could vault him back into the mix at an appetizing price. At No. 129 in FedEx Cup points, a big week could hold outsized importance and he'll be looking to pick up every bit of ground on the leaderboard he can over the weekend.

Johnson Wagner (+2500): Taking a flier on a veteran who tends to bring his best stuff to this event, regardless of current form. Wagner strung together three straight top-10 finishes at TPC Deere Run from 2014-16, and he added a T-16 finish in 2018. It's clearly a place that fits both his eye and game, and his middling recent results do include two made cuts in his last three PGA Tour starts (Quail Hollow and the Nelson). Wagner sits at No. 215 in the FedEx Cup race with just a few weeks to go, so a big week will go a long way in terms of at least getting him a spot in the KFT Finals. His strength is on the greens, and these are surfaces where he has a tendency to get hot.

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