JOHN DEERE CLASSIC: Though it’s been a fixture on the PGA Tour schedule for some 50 years, the John Deere Classic has remained an event for the outsiders, journeymen, and young guys looking to break through. Much of this is due to the fact that it’s often been held the week before the Open, and though there’s now a week separating this tournament from the year’s final major, most of the world’s top players have decided to rest and prepare for the trip to Scotland.
Of course, there is a professional golf event being held this week that features 9 of the past 21 major championship winners and four former World No. 1 players, and it ain’t the Irish Open. The PGA Tour had the perfect antidote to LIV’s debut event a couple of weeks ago, with Rory McIlroy outdueling Justin Thomas at the Canadian Open and stealing the spotlight from the Saudi tour’s much-anticipated unveiling, but there will be no such luck this week, as the biggest stars won’t be found on either the PGA or DP tours, but in Portland.
That’s of little concern to the players about to tee it up at TPC Deere Run, however, and a field of this nature often makes for an interesting betting market and high-volume in-play trading. The course should help in that regard, as TPC Deere Run is a very scorable layout that has produced some thrilling finishes over the years. A par-71 that tips out at 7,268 yards, it’s essentially a parade of wedges and short irons, so those who are able to hit fairways and steer clear of the lush bentgrass rough will have plenty of birdie opportunities. It’s taken 18-under or better to win this tournament every year since 2008, and sometimes guys go really deep, like Michael Kim’s 27-under in 2018 or three-time champion Steve Stricker’s 26-under in 2010. Bottom line: to succeed this week, you’d better bring your birdies.
Lucas Glover got the job done last year, edging Ryan Moore and Kevin Na for his first win in 10 years. He’s back to defend and is currently trading at a healthy 70.0 at BETDAQ, so if you think we may see a back-to-back winner for the fourth time in this tournament’s history, now would be a good time to hop on. Given that Glover hasn’t sniffed a top-10 since January, however, I’ll be looking elsewhere. Here’s what I’m thinking:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Denny McCarthy (33.0)- While McCarthy has long been one of the best putters in the world, his ball-striking has improved to the point where he’s now routinely hovering around the first page of leaderboards as opposed to the cutline, and if feels like only a matter of time until he breaks through with his first PGA Tour victory. Given the way he putts (5th on Tour in strokes gained putting) and makes birdies in bunches (5th on Tour in total birdies), it could happen for him this week. Though he’s finished no better than T34 in three previous appearances at this event, he’s shown the ability to light up TPC Deere Run, posting three rounds of 66 or better, and he’s currently having the best month of his career after a T5 at the Memorial and a 7th-place finish at the U.S. Open. The top of the market may not be too exciting this week, but 33.0 is a fine price for McCarthy.
Adam Svensson (60.0)- The 28-year old Svensson took the hard road to the PGA Tour, grinding his way through various mini-tours and eventually the Korn Ferry Tour, and early this season the rookie went through a tough stretch and found himself in a precarious situation leading up to the all-important reshuffle. He bailed himself out with a couple of top-10s, however, and has since found his sea legs, cashing checks in each of his last five events, logging top-25 finishes in his past two starts (RBC Canadian Open and Travelers Championship), and shooting par or better in 18 of his last 20 competitive rounds. This will be his debut at TPC Deere Run, but bentgrass is his favorite surface having grown up in Canada, and he’s 8th on Tour is total birdies, so he’s not afraid to go low. This is a sleeper pick that I’m very optimistic about.
Scott Brown (76.0)- Due to his partial status Brown has had trouble getting into a rhythm this year, as he’s been forced to split time between the PGA and Korn Ferry tours. That said, he’s made the cut in 4 of his past 6 starts on the big tour, and he finished 10th in last week’s Korn Ferry event, the Live and Work in Maine Open. That’s proof enough for me that his game in is decent shape, and as he’s reminded us repeatedly over the years, a little bit of game is all Brown needs to contend at TPC Deere Run. Over the last nine years he’s recorded an impressive seven top-25s at this event, which is quite astounding when you consider his lackluster overall performance on Tour in that time. He’s found the top-10 three times and finished T4 last year, the closest he’s come yet to the trophy. A win this week would be a career-changer for Brown, obviously, but he’s proven time again that he can beat anyone on this course. He’s worth a chance at a price like 76.0.