With one week until the fourth and final major of the 2021 campaign in England, the PGA Tour players have the smaller matter of the John Deere Classic to deal with. Players will travel to Silvis, Illinois, where they will tee it up at TPC Deere Run. Dylan Frittelli will look to defend his crown having raced to glory when the tournament last took place in 2019.
Before we get into this week’s event, let’s have a quick recap of last week. There was quite the helping of disappointment dished out at the Rocket Mortgage. Big Bryson failed to match his 2020 form, finishing well down the field, while Doc Redman and Webb Simpson, the two value plays also failed to really make their mark.
It was a spirited effort from Byeong Hun An, who came out the gate fast on Thursday, scoring well, while he continued to drop the birdies over the week, flirting with the top 20 on the final day before tailing off late in proceedings.
The shining light was must-have pick Joaquin Niemann, who was up there all along, held the lead several times, but eventually failed in a three-hole play-off. It was fair to say that the Chilean scored very highly for fantasy players.
There is a real opportunity for those outside the highest reaches of the rankings this week as many of the top players aren’t making the journey to Illinois, opting for other preparations ahead of next week’s Open Championship.
Nobody inside the top ten in the world right now will feature at TPC Deere Run. World number 16 Daniel Berger is set to be the highest-ranked player in the field. Other notable entries include Players Championship winner Si Woo Kim, world number 26 Sungjae Im, who has had an excellent season so far, and Russel Henley.
Three-time John Deere Classic winner Steve Stricker will also tee it up this week, as will defending champion Dylan Frittelli.
TPC Deere Run
The John Deere Classic is held at Illinois TPC Deere Run, a course that famously rewards aggressive play.
Low scores are the norm and over the years at this venue, the birdies have flown in left, right, and center. Known as one of the easier Par 71’s on tour, TPC Deere Run doesn’t require accuracy off the tee as paramount, as it offers fairways that are among the easiest to hit, while distance isn’t of the utmost importance either, meaning that the longer players aren’t necessarily at an advantage this week.
It is worth noting that those who are not yet qualified for the British Open, the fourth and final major of the season, can earn themselves a spot by finishing inside the top five in Illinois this week.
What does it take to win at TPC Deere Run?
As touched on above, being accurate and long off the tee isn’t particularly important here. Players can score low even if they’re wayward with the driver. Those who can play attacking golf are often rewarded.
Wedge play and accuracy around the greens are needed, as Dylan Frittelli proved two years ago while putting is critical too. Frittelli ranked number one for strokes gained: putting when winning in 2019.
Putting is going to be massive on these greens, those who enjoy themselves with the flat stick this week will certainly give themselves a chance of glory. Perhaps equally important is proximity to the hole, so approach play and work around the greens will be key too, bring both strokes gained: approach and strokes gained: around-the-green into play. Strokes gained: tee-to-green, as is often the case, is also something to keep an eye on.
Below are four important stats, followed by the top ten in those categories at this venue in the last five seasons. Note: only players who’ve played at least four rounds at the venue are included.
Strokes gained: approach: Tyler Duncan, Russell Henley, Lucas Glover, Jonathan Byrd, C.T. Pan, Roger Sloan, Chez Reavie, Adam Schenk, Kevin Na, Ryan Moore.
Strokes gained: around-the-green: Dylan Frittelli, Sungjae Im, Ricky Barnes, Rob Oppenheim, Adam Schenk, Charles Howell, Kevin Streelman, Martin Laird, Brian Gay, Jonathon Byrd.
Strokes gained: tee-to-green: Keith Mitchell, Russell Henley, Martin Laird, Tyler Duncan, Roger Sloan, Lucas Glover, Dylan Frittelli, Kevin Streelman, Scott Stallings, Adam Schenk.
Strokes gained: putting: Ben Martin, Dylan Frittelli, K.J. Choi, Sam Ryder, Beau Hossler, Andres Romero, Parker McLachlin, Patrick Rodgers, Anirban Lahiri, Peter Malnati.
|Odds To Win +2000|
|Draft Kings $9,900|
|Russell Henley doesn’t go into too many events as one of the big dogs, but he certainly slots into that category this week. Quite simply, a player of Henley’s quality must be eying this as a massive opportunity to get a victory under the belt. It’s not been a bad campaign for Henley, who has bagged himself a couple of top 10’s and numerous other top ’20s, finishing T13 and T19 in his last two events. The 32-year-old is currently the 18th best player on tour in terms of greens in regulation, which given the absences here means he’s one of the best in the field in that category. Additionally, he ranks as the second-best in the field in terms of strokes gained: total on this track. If you’re looking for a high-priced player that ought to go close, look no further than Henley, who not only arrives in good form but after finishing second here in 2019, ticks lots of course boxes.|
|Odds To Win +2200|
|Draft Kings $9,700|
|Streelman is going to be popular this week, no doubt about it. Prior to the Travelers, where a poor second round proved costly, the Illinois native had posted four consecutive top 20’s. He hasn’t always hit the heights here, but he has made the top 10 on three occasions, which is nothing to sneer at. A ranking of seventh in terms of strokes gained: around-the-green - of those in the field that have played four or more rounds here in the past five seasons – bodes well, as does a ranking of eighth when it comes to strokes gained: tee-to-green. Fantasy players could do far worse than supporting a guy returning home, a guy that has made a habit of finishing in the upper echelons of the leaderboard this season.|
|Odds To Win +8000|
|Draft Kings $7,800|
|It’s not often that players win the same event back-to-back, but there’s no reason as to why 2019 winner Dylan Frittelli cannot once again impress at TPC River Deere. Won on competition debut two seasons ago, posting some fantastic strokes gained numbers in the process, numbers that see him rank second in this field for both strokes gained: around-the-green and strokes gained: putting on this track. That effort a couple of years ago is hard to ignore, and it’s easy to feel that in this field, with so many big names missing, that he ought to be a bit more expensive. On that basis, the South African goes in as a value play.|
|Odds To Win +5000|
|Draft Kings $8,500|
|The twilight period has certainly arrived for Zach Johnson, who is undoubtedly beyond his best as a PGA Tour player, but if this season has shown us anything it’s doesn’t discount a player because you think they’re too old! Moreover, the one-time major winner has plenty of excellent form in the book at this venue, finishing inside the top five no less than seven times (YES SEVEN!) since 2009. Unsurprisingly, Johnson has lots of positive strokes gained data at TPV River Deere too, so it would be no surprise to see him pull out his best performance of the season. In case that happens, fantasy players should get him on the team at an affordable price.|
|Odds To Win +15000|
|Draft Kings $6,900|
|Adam Schenk ticks lots of boxes this week and crucially, he’s a cheap buy. Sixth here in 2019, he has plenty of impressive relevant strokes gained data to show off. Ranking eighth for strokes gained: approach among those who’ve played four or more rounds at this venue in the last five seasons, as well as fifth for strokes, gained: around-the-green. If you’re looking for a lower-priced player in fantasy this week, there are worse options than Mr. Schenk, that’s for sure.|
|Odds to Win +14000|
|Draft Kings $7,000|
|Another player from out of the blue, who may not be on the radar of too many ahead of this week is Tyler Duncan, who has played well at this tournament on more than one occasion, finishing 12th in 2018 and 26th in 2019. The 31-year-old has won just once on the PGA Tour, emerging victorious from the RSM Classic a couple of years ago, while he’s not exactly been in flying form of late, but as touched on above, he’s played well here before and has some appealing strokes gained data to his name. In this field, Duncan ranks as the best player for strokes gained: approach on this track, as well as the fourth-best for strokes, gained: tee-to-green. Such stats make him a viable play at a low price.|