Another big game week is here! Sign up before Wednesday night for the British Open Pick 6 game: pick any six golfers, whoever finishes first wins $1,000. We pay the top 10, it's tons of fun, and it's only $10 to play. Sign up here if you haven't already.
A new scouting report on the TPC Deere Run: when playing the par-4 18th with the tourney on the line, hit the ball into the fairway bunker. Two ridiculous shots the last two years from that bunker have led to victories for Steve Stricker (2011) and Zach Johnson, who flagged a 6-iron from 193 yards on the second playoff hole to win on Sunday, fulfilling a personal quest to win his hometown Quad Cities tourney.
It was Johnson's second win of the year and he can make an argument that he's been the best golfer in the US the last three months: Two wins, two seconds, and more than $3 million in earnings. He's now second in the FedEx Cup and heads to Royal Lytham & St. Annes with his game in good order. More on him on Tuesday.
There were a few other things we picked up on at the John Deere Classic and overseas:
- Troy Matteson hung tough. A 60-foot bomb for eagle on No. 17 and a clutch par on No. 18 got him into the playoff with Zach Johnson, which was impressive. He also had the pressure of playing with the three-time defending champ and everyone waiting for Stricker to make his run. He doesn't hit the ball very straight, but he can bomb it and putted great all week. This could be a big confidence boost for Matteson and he has tons of game.
- Stricker had to settle for a t5 finish. His game is just a touch off, but with the Open, PGA, FedEx Cup and Ryder Cup looming, he's making strides. He has a solid Open record the last six years, with three top-12's. Royal Lytham might be a different story, however, as the penalty for missing the fairway is more extreme than in other Opens venues.
- Luke Guthrie could be the Bud Cauley of 2012, trying to earn his card in only seven tournaments via sponsor's exemptions. The recent Illinois grad has two professional tournaments under his belt: t19 at St. Jude and t5 at the Deere. Very impressive, especially since they are two totally different courses. He was the first back-to-back Big Ten Champion since Northwestern's Donald in 2000-01 and first Illini repeat champion since Stricker in 1988-89 -- heady company. He'll be one to consider whenever he's in the field.
- Kyle Stanley seems to have steadied the ship. His putting has plagued him the last three months, but he now has back-to-back finishes inside the top-22. He's heading over to The Open, and he could be a nice darkhorse -- he hit it long (6th in distance at the Deere) and straight (t3 in driving accuracy) last week and he's not going to be as challenged with fast or tricky putts at Lytham.
In Europe: There was a much better field in the Scottish Open, and it was on a links at Castle Stuart, a true warm-up for The Open. It was another playoff, where Jeev Milkha Singh bested Francisco Molinari. Molinari continued his solid play and as straight as he hits it he should be considered a legitimate contender at Lytham this week. Defending champ Luke Donald had a poor final round to drop to t16, Raphael Jacquelin had another solid performance (that's two in a row, and he was top-10 in The Open in 2011 and has contended at other links courses all over the world, including Pebble Beach), and Henrik Stenson secured a top-10 (he contended at The Masters for awhile). Padraig Harrington has been looking dangerous recently, too, and had a steady tournament to finish t16 with Donald.
I did notice last week
that the last two Open champs had placed in the 60's at the Scottish. So be on the lookout for players such as Ross Fisher, David Howell, Jose Manuel Lara
(all t68), or maybe even Miguel Angel Jimenez,
who fired a 68 on Sunday to creep up to t61.
Trending Up: John Senden (five top-10's, two in a row, could be another darkhorse at Lytham but he has a poor Open record); Seung-yul Noh (11 straight cuts made, five straight 27th-or-better finishes); Kevin Streelman (t8 at Deere, with the Wyndham next month where he's had a couple of good finishes).
Breaking Bad: Mark Wilson (last six events: three MC's, best finish of t45); Kevin Stadler (three straight MC's); Charles Howell III (just do me a favor and do not put him in your line-up, please).