The First Tee – John Deere Classic

Adam Daly
By Adam Daly July 8, 2019 22:03

The First Tee – John Deere Classic

This Week

The lead-up week to the Open is usually where youngsters break out (Bryson, Spieth as recent examples) and given the strength of the field this week – no golfer in the top 50 in the OWGR ranking – that explains the top-priced golfers being three players who turned pro less than a month ago: Viktor Hovland, Collin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff off his win last week. Much like the past two weeks, this week will be another event where you should diversify your player pool more than normal as the true talent level between someone priced at $6500 and someone priced at $8500 isn’t as vast as a $2000 difference would make you think.

In the past five years, the winning score here has been between -18 (Bryson) and -27 (Michael Kim), with the cut sitting in the -2 to -4 range, so it’s another high scoring week. Part of the reason the course plays so easy is the short layout – TPC Deere Run is a par-71 that plays at 7268 yards – but in general, TPC courses don’t offer much resistance to tour pros outside of water. Expect easy driving, a ton of greens hit in regulation and a very forgettable week of golf ahead of the Open.

THE COURSE

TPC Deere Run is located in Silvis, Illinois and as mentioned is a short par-71. The three par-5s here are all very gettable and run between 560-596 yards and they usually see 30+ eagles combined, and are obviously the three easiest holes on the course. Beyond the par-5s, there are three par-4s that play below 400 yards and are also quite easy (-0.110 avg. or easier), and the par-3s are rather simplistic as well; the only scoring focus this week beyond overall BoB% would be on the par-4s because most of the field will be making birdie or better on the par-5s.

The fairways here are very wide at 37 yards across on average (at the 300 yard mark), which explains why 70+% of fairways are hit here every year; the fairways are surrounded loosely by trees and there’s almost no water to be concerned with (as opposed to TPC Twin Cities) so golfers can unload driver with no fear. The rough is pretty tall but thin, and it’s Kentucky bluegrass so it won’t grab at the ball the way a stickier grass like kikuyu would, which means most approach shots out of the rough should be fine.

Approach distances here will be short (50 – 125 yard range) given the short distance and the fact that golfers can hit driver on most holes, and they’ll be hitting into large-ish bentgrass greens that are about average speed at 11.5” on the stimpmeter. The only real test on approach will be hitting onto the right level of the green, as the greens here have lots of undulation and some multi-tiered greens; the greens are very easy to hit given the size and the fact that so many approaches will be with a wedge or short iron, so ball control will be easy if the weather doesn’t bake the greens.

This event will usually turn into a putting competition, so ignoring the atrocious putters is usually the way to go.

Comparable courses/events:

TPC Twin Cities (3M Open) – Winning score in the mid-20s, bentgrass greens with easy-to-hit fairways and easy approach shots in. Also a par-71, and obviously the fact that it’s a TPC course as well makes it a strong comparable. Not as much water at Deere Run (only three hazards) so the big double-bogey numbers won’t pop up.

Colonial (Charles Schwab Challenge) – Colonial is longer, but the golfer overlap between the courses is good enough to look at. Another bentgrass course where putting is at a premium.

STATS

The Strokes Gained stats to focus on in order (not including Tee to Green):

  • Approach
  • Putting
  • Off-the-Tee
  • Around the Green

Counting stats to focus on in order:

  • Birdie or Better %
  • Good Drive %
  • Approach Shots: 50-125 Yards
  • Par-4 Scoring
  • Proximity to the Hole

Top-Tier Golfers

Brian Harman ($9400): Harman’s golf profile would best be described as “short, good with wedges, good putter” which is a perfect fit here, and his course history backs that up: four made cuts in six tries, but all four made cuts were top-25 finishes which includes a win in 2014.

On the year, Harman’s struggled a bit compared to his regular form when looking at stats categories, but he’s also picked up three top-10s and made nine cuts (albeit out of 21 played events). He’s performed extremely well at TPC courses though: T7 at Twin Cities, T8 at River Highlands, T8 at Sawgrass and a T31 and T27 at Colonial and Memorial which are similar set-ups to this week.

Rather than a full stats breakdown (since…it’s a little ugly), the Harman highlights are the 30th-best distance from edge of the fairway, 37th-best proximity outside 200 (which is looked at more since he’s so short off the tee), and 23rd-best three-putt avoidance. There are definitely better players from a stats perspective, but Harman still fits this course very well.

Ryan Moore ($9200): In his ten tries at TPC Deere Run, Moore has picked up a top-25 half the time (including a win, T7 and T8) to just one missed cut. He’s cut from the same cloth as Brian Harman, in that he’s a strong par-4 player with short accurate drives, good with short irons and wedges, and the putting is just a touch above average.

Statistically, he checks a lot of boxes:

  • 3rd in Driving Accuracy
  • 25th in SG: Approach
  • 29th in Approach Shots between 125-150 yards (bumped a touch given how short he is off the tee) / 6th relative to par
  • 63rd in SG: Putting

But mostly, Moore is a course history and fit play that should see lower ownership than some of the young studs this week because he’s got no flash.

Others: Viktor Hovland ($10900), Collin Morikawa ($10700) – their ownership even as two of the top-three golfers price-wise will be scary high.

 

Value Golfer (below $8000)

Joey Garber ($7300): In his last two events (the 3M Open and the Rocket Mortgage Classic), Garber’s been a stud: he ranked 5th / 16th / 70th and 17th in SG: OTT, APP, ARG and Putting respectively at the 3M, and 5th / 30th / 69th / 34th in the same categories at the Rocket Mortgage. That led him to finishes of T7 and T29, two of the five top-30s he’s grabbed so far this season in 15 PGA events played.

On the season, Garber’s stats don’t jump off the page as anything special, but he’s also played tougher courses and fields than this week will offer, and he tends to struggle on non-bentgrass greens. He’s losing strokes on the year in every category except off the tee where he’s 81st, and his scoring numbers don’t jump out as anything special either, as he’s averaging 4.03 on par-4s and has an overall BoB% of just 18.24%.

The plusses for Garber beyond the recent form are his play in tight: his average approach distance when making birdie is 172.8 yards – most golfers are beyond that range so this should help at a short course – and his proximity from in close (50-125) is very good at 36th in true proximity and 41st relative to par. His price tag and expected ownership make him a very viable play this week. Garber’s made the cut here his only time out but a third-round 75 saw him slip to a 72nd-place finish.

Alex Prugh ($6700): He’s missed the past two cuts (-1 the 3M Open and +1 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic) but Prugh previously picked up a 20th at TPC River Highlands and a T21 at the US Open, so he’s been playing fine if slightly inconsistent golf over the past month; it’s the putting that’s done him in, as he lost 3 strokes combined over the four rounds he played at the 3M and RMC while playing fine golf beyond that.

He’s still hit 70.07% of greens in regulation on the year and sits 22nd in SG: OTT, so he’ll give himself plenty of opportunities to hit putts; he’s especially strong with a wedge in hand, as he’s -42 on 164 attempts from 50-125 yards out (5th) and his average proximity of 17’6” has him 27th – in fact, his average distance when making birdie is 163.5 yards which is perfect for here. Unfortunately he’s not a huge birdie-maker, but at only $6700 he’s a risk worth taking.

Others: Talor Gooch ($7700), Austin Cook ($7300)

 

You can follow me on Twitter @adalyfrey and good luck this week!

 

Adam Daly
By Adam Daly July 8, 2019 22:03

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