This week the PGA Tour hits close to home for me. John Deere and TPC Deere Run are synonymous with Iowa and midwest culture. While TPC Deere Run is technically in Silvis, IL, it is part of the beautiful Quad Cities, a metropolitan area spanning four counties that straddle the Mississippi River, partly in Iowa and partly in Illinois.
That is where the PGA Tour heads this week.
TPC Deere Run is a beautiful 7,250-yard par-71 course nestled along the mighty Mississippi River. With a course rating of 75.8, it poses challenges for even the best golfers. Holes at Deere Run are more times than not lined with thick trees. Many holes seem to snake their way downrange through these trees with hard cuts and doglegs flanked with hazards.
The course favors accuracy and finesse, especially off the tee-box where errant drives or misread carries can be devastating.
The John Deere Classic was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, but South African Dylan Frittelli took the tournament in 2019 with a two-stroke victory over Russell Henley.
Although not as widely known as other tournaments, the John Deere Classic has been a jump-off point for some big-name golfers. Both Jordan Spieth and Bryson DeChambeau won their first professional tournaments here.
Will this year be another opportunity for a newcomer to make a name for himself? Or will a crafty veteran step up and play spoiler?
Here is a look at my favorite bets for the John Deere Classic.
Favorites to Win Outright
Daniel Berger (+1000)
I have no reason to bet against Las Vegas this week. At number 16 in the Official World Golf Rankings, Daniel Berger is the best all-around golfer in this tournament.
The 28-year-old from Florida may not top the charts in any particular stat, but he is an extremely well-rounded golfer. Berger is above average in driving distance (297-yards/drive), and driving accuracy (63.6% fairways hit). In addition, his 0.707 true strokes-gained on approach shots is the 14th best on tour.
Berger is coming off a 7th place finish at Torrey Pines in the U.S. Open and has already claimed six top-ten finishes on the season. He will be looking to build on this recent success and win his second tournament of the year against this not-so-stacked field.
He has also played in the John Deere Classic twice, finishing 5th here in 2017.
Sungjae Im (+1400)
The 23-year-old out of Korea hasn’t made much of a splash on Tour since his runner-up showing at the rescheduled 2020 Masters. He did however turn in a top-ten performance last week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. A big part of last week’s success was due to him hitting over 80% of his fairways off the tee. That wasn’t an anomaly either.
Im is 14th on Tour in strokes-gained off the tee, and that is due to his 13th-best driving accuracy percentage of 69.4%.
As I said in the intro, hitting fairways accurately is a must if you want to be successful at Deere Run, and Im’s skill set should play very well here.
Value Picks (Win/Top 5)
Kevin Streelman (+2200/+500)
The only golfer in this field better than Kevin Streelman tee-to-green over the past six months has been the favorite, Daniel Berger.
The 20-year Tour veteran has had a bit of an up and down year, but has four top-20 finishes in his last five outings, two of which were Majors. Streelman has picked his game up of late. He ranks 13th in this field off the tee and 4th on approach, which should be a recipe for success at Deere Run.
Streelman also has quite a bit of experience on this course. He has played in eight rounds here in his professional career and has logged three top-five finishes.
Steve Stricker (+3300/+650)
Many bettors will be playing Stricker this week strictly based on history, and they wouldn’t be wrong to do so.
The 54-year-old may not be lighting the tour on fire, but no one has had more success at TPC Deere Run than Stricker. He has played in 14 events here throughout his career and won three John Deere Classics in a row from 2009 to 2011. All totaled, Stricker has seven top-ten finishes here and six of them were top-fives. It’s safe to say he knows this course.
It’s not just the experience though, as Stricker is no slouch on the course. He’s top-20 in this field in strokes-gained tee-to-green, propelled by his excellent play around the green.
I could see the crafty veteran using his knowledge of this course to find his first win of the 2021 season. A +650 bet for a top-five finish would also be a very good play this week.
Maverick McNealy (+3300/+750)
When I think about youngsters looking to log their first Tour win, 25-year-old Maverick McNealy seems like an excellent candidate. McNealy missed three straight cuts in April and May but has been playing much better golf as of late, averaging 23rd place finishes in his last three tournaments.
His recent improvement has been widely driven by his play off the tee box, where he has the 2nd most strokes-gained per round in this field over the past three months. McNealy has struggled around the green, but has made up for it with his putting game recently.
I’m not saying McNealy is the next Jordan Speith or anything, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Stanford Alum makes a splash this week and wins his first tournament. A +750 top-five wager is also something to look at for more risk-averse bettors.
Aaron Wise (+3300/+750)
Although he’s not searching for his first career victory like McNealy, 25-year-old Aaron Wise is another young golfer trying to make a name for himself, and he has the skill set to do it at TPC Deere Run.
Wise has quietly been approaching top-20 in true strokes-gained tee-to-green with a well-rounded game. His 69.9% of greens in regulation is 9th-best on Tour and 3rd-best in this field over the past six months.
Wise will just need to make sure his putting does not cost him strokes as it appears to be the part of his game that is holding him back. However, if he can keep his short game mistakes to a minimum, I could see him making a run at this tournament.
I will also be leaning on a +750 top-five wager to hedge the short game.
Long Shots Long Shots (Win/Top 5/Top 10)
Jhonattan Vegas (+5000/+1000/+450)
No one in this field is better off the tee than Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas. The problem is that it’s not due to accuracy, but power. Vegas’ 308.7 yards per drive is 11th best on tour, but be only hits fairways at a 57% clip.
The reason I’m including Vegas here as a long shot is that he’s proven he can be more accurate than his stats show. And when he does, he is successful.
At the Palmetto Championship, Vegas hit over 70% of fairways off the tee for the week, and as a result, ended up with a second-place finish. Long shots are that for a reason, and I’m taking a chance this week that Vegas can again find the fairway. If he can, his distance will make him a dangerous competitor in this field.
Vegas has also made five professional starts at TPC Deere Run, finishing as high as third place in 2014.
I love the 10/1 odds he’s getting on a top-five finish, and even a +450 top-10 wager might be a nice addition to the bottom of a bet slip.
Kyle Stanley (+5000/+1000/+450)
Honestly, I was quite surprised to find Kyle Stanley this far down the odds list considering the field and his recent performance.
Statistically, Stanley is the 4th-best golfer tee-to-green in this field over the past three months. He is top-ten both off the tee and on approach. Frankly, there are several golfers below him in measurable performance that are getting significantly better odds in this tournament, some of whom I mentioned above.
Stanley’s problem is similar to Aaron Wise’s. His putting has been atrocious this year. In 64 rounds he has averaged about 0.6 strokes lost per round on the green. It hurt him last week at Detroit, but in that same tournament, he hit nearly 84% of his fairways off the tee. That’s something that could help offset any putting mistakes at Deere Run.
Another golfer getting 10/1 odds for a top-five finish this week, I think Stanley is worth a flyer in this field.
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