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Welcome to lovely Silvis, Ill., hard on the East bank of the Mississippi, a stone’s skip from Iowa, home to the Deere Run TPC and the John Deere Classic, and otherwise known as Steve Stricker’s ATM machine.
Can Stricker enter Tiger Woods territory and win the same event four years in a row? There’s no reason to doubt it, as he’s been playing his normal, consistently excellent golf in 2012. He’ll have a little more of a challenge this year, however, as there are more of the world’s top-50 players in the field this year compared to 2011. That being said, the Deere gets the short end of the stick on the schedule with the Open Championship next week across the pond. Most of the top players are already overseas fine tuning their games.
The Deere’s purse is only $4.6 million, which is actually up $100k from 2011. The winner’s share is a little over $800k, or roughly 20% less than the average winner’s check. $800k is $800k, however, and can make a dent in our One and Done game. The main difference is that only the top-10 are guaranteed six-figure paydays, while most events get down to No. 15 or so.
Let’s get to the picks. Some notes on the obvious guys:
- Stricker. Three-time defending champ, it would be shocking if he wasn’t in or around the lead on Sunday. You’re not going to get great odds on him this week.
- Zach Johnson. Iowa boy, No. 17 in the OWGR and No. 7 in FedEx Cup standings. Has t3 (2011) and 2nd place (2009) finishes here.
- Carl Pettersson. A fifth-place finish in 2007, but two MC’s since. Not a great record here.
- Jonathan Byrd. Past champ (2007) and one of the bigger names in the field who has been playing great, but he’s also been sick. Make sure he doesn’t WD before picking him.
- Nick Watney. Has shown signs of life recently.
Speaking of which, John Huh withdrew on Monday. Be sure to double check your golfer’s status
this week -- with the Open Championship looming next week at Royal Lytham, it can do some funny things to an event’s field.
Onto the less obvious picks:
10. Tim Clark.
He almost made the Deere his first Tour win in 2007, finishing 2nd. Since then, he’s had a t18 and t7 in as many attempts. I like him a lot this week, but he’s still knocking the rust off after a long dry spell due to injury. Within the last five events he’s played, however, there have been signs of life: t4 at Travelers, t19 at Colonial, t25 at The PLAYERS. Like most of these guys, it all comes down to putting. If he putts like he has the last month or so, he should be a contender.
9. Ben Crane.
A t22 at the AT&T might be a sign that his game is rounding back into form. TPC Deere Run is a course that should suit his game: straight off the tee (54th in driving accuracy), solid irons (36th in GIR%), and good putting (37th in SG-P). Beware, however, that he is one of the first alternates for the Open Championship and if he gets in the event on Tuesday or Wednesday, he might WD and head overseas.
8. Daniel Summerhays.
He has two fifth place finishes and a t17 the last four weeks, and his game – mainly his putting – is rounding into form. Overall he’s ranked 121st in strokes gained-putting, but in the last four weeks he’s had two events in which he finished in the top 15 in the SG-P category, and both courses had bent grass greens… just like TPC Deere Run. He’s 12th on Tour in GIR%, so if he continues to putt well he should have a solid finish.
7. Seung-yul Noh.
He was high on the list last week, but a trend has emerged with him: he has one bad or mediocre round on the weekend. He’s 33rd on Tour in scoring before the cut, 54th on Saturdays and 82nd on Sundays. Still, his all-around ranking is 26th on Tour and his results have been consistently good for the last two months. He should be in the top-20 again this week, but the top-10 is all that really pays at the Deere.
6. John Daly.
I never thought he’d be in these rankings, I admit. But he’s playing some very solid golf the last couple of weeks, including a t12 at Greenbrier, his highest finish since a t9 at the Canadian Open last year. He even had a couple of good finishes in Europe earlier in the season, and he’s only missed one cut on Tour in 2012. Although he doesn’t have a huge sample size, he is 13th on Tour in driving distance and 5th in strokes gained-putting, a great (and relatively unique) combo. In a field with very few options, he’s one to consider. It’s also a more exciting to be waiting for him to go ‘Tin Cup’ on a hole.
5. Brendon de Jonge.
Came back relatively well after the disappointment in DC with a decent performance at Greenbrier, which included a second-round 64 (but an opening 74 derailed his chances). He was t7 here the last two years, and last year he shot 74 in the final round to sink like a stone.
4. Bryce Molder.
He hasn’t done anything fancy at this event – a couple of t30 finishes in the last three years – but he has the right measurables for the course. A solid iron player with one of the best putting strokes on Tour… call him ‘Steve Stricker Lite’. He’s a good bet to make the cut (made five of his last six) with the potential to win. Last year he started to catch fire in late June.
3. Ken Duke.
All he does is cash six-figure paychecks it seems. After yet another a t7 result at Greenbrier last week – his fifth seventh-place finish of the year -- he now has six top-10’s on the year. He’s already made $1.3 million this year and performed well at tourneys in which the winning score was well into the double digits under par (Greenbrier, New Orleans, Pebble Beach, Transitions). Those are four very different putting surfaces as well, so his 16th-ranked putting game will travel.
2. Jeff Overton.
Practically a staple in the 10-Fer, I get the sense he’s going to break through in a big way soon. He has two top-17’s in his last three events, a t22 in the other. He’s on the cusp of putting four great rounds together, and this could be the week.
1. Sean O’Hair.
He’s been very consistent in 2012, only missing two cuts and sprinkling in a top-25 about every third event. He’s only played this event twice since 2005, when it was his first Tour win. Putting is what holds O’Hair back, but his flatstick has shown signs of life the last two weeks, a t22 at the AT&T and a t7 at Greenbrier (15th in putting). He’s definitely trending in the right direction and coming back to a course on which he’s won, so he’s as good a pick as anyone not named Steve Stricker.
Player to avoid: Charles Howell III.
He finished t4 here last year, but as I noted yesterday he hasn’t done anything since the first tourney of the year and has missed two of his last three cuts. Howell is a marginal fantasy play at best this year.
One other note: Ted Potter, Jr., might have himself another good week. I saw a stat that he once missed 25 consecutive cuts on the Web.com Tour… and now he’s won on the PGA Tour. He might be a little streaky, let’s just say. Two in a row would be fantastic. I’m guessing he’ll be playing pretty loose from here on out, and on a track that surrendered a 59 to Paul Goydos, that’s a good thing.
Decent picks last week: Well, I was 10/11 in making the cut with my darkhorses and several of them were well positioned heading into the weekend, especially Jonathan Byrd and Seung-yul Noh. But all I could muster were a few t17 and t22 finishes. But for the record, that’s 19 of 21 the last two weeks. Hope to keep it simmering during this long hot summer.
Bad pick: Jhonattan Vegas was the only on to miss the cut, and he will be punished accordingly.