Pro Golf Weekly

2018 John Deere Classic Power Rankings

Joel Cook analyzes the PGA Tour field at TPC Deere Run in this week’s John Deere Classic Power Rankings.


The locals in rural Silvis, Illinois – located on the Illinois-Iowa border – love the John Deere Classic, annually coming out in droves to cheer on their favorite Tour players each year. In regards to fanfare, few events on the PGA Tour compare.
 
John Deere Classic TPC Deere Run
A view of the 18th hole during the 2016 John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois. Credit: Michael Cohen/Getty Images
 
However, one important demographic that does not share the same affinity for this annual event is the higher ranked golfers of the PGA Tour. With The Open Championship teeing off six time zones away next week, the John Deere has struggled to compile a strong field. Still, the tournament, held at TPC Deere Run is consistently competitive, and last year it provided some of the best Sunday drama of the Tour season.
 
Even if most of the bigger names aren’t in Silvis this week, the field is still talented and highly motivated. There is one spot still up for grabs for The Open Championship, and that is just a small part of what is at stake this week.
 
Here are the players we believe stand the best chance at finishing atop the John Deere Classic leaderboard:


JDC POWER RANKINGS: 5 SLEEPER PICKS

15. TROY MERRITT

Troy Merritt John Deere Classic
Troy Merritt putts on the 17th hole during the second round of the 2016 John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois. Credit: Michael Cohen/Getty Images

One of the very few Iowa natives in the field, this is a close-ish event to Merritt’s hometown, and his game has been trending in the right direction as of late. He has made 8 of his last 9 cuts, and two of his last three starts have resulted in a T12 and a T17.

In both those events, Merritt got into the mix with three rounds in the 60s, but had a 72 strike down his chances both times. At No. 127 in the FedExCup Standings, the 32-year-old knows this week could be potentially critical to his chances of making the playoffs and having a PGA Tour card for next season.

Odds: 125/1
World Rank: 315
Last JDC Start: T60 (2017)
Last Seven: 17, MC, 12, 53, 42, 36, 43


14. KEVIN TWAY

Kevin Tway PGA Tour
Kevin Tway hits from the 12th tee during the third round of the 2018 Fort Worth Invitational at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, TX. Credit: George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tway has been all-or-nothing as of late, as his last six starts contain three top 10s, but also a missed cut and two other finishes outside the top 60. Tway did well at TPC Deere Run last year, however, as a second-round 63 was his best round in a T12 finish.

If he falls short this week, it will likely again be due to embarrassing accuracy with his driver, which has plagued him all year, but his high finishes seem to come in bunches, and we like him to post another one at a course he has shown comfort at in the past.

Odds: 60/1
World Rank: 144
Last JDC Start: T12 (2017)
Last Seven: 73, 6, MC, 65, 5, 9, 46


13. BRIAN GAY

Brian Gay PGA Tour
Brian Gay hits a tee shot during the second round of the 2018 Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac (Maryland). Credit: Getty Images/Sam Greenwood

In the midst of his best season since 2009, the 46-year-old Gay has showcased one of the better short games on Tour in 2018. A recent string of strong finishes, including a T20 at the U.S. Open and a T8 at the Quicken Loans National was snapped by a T39 at The Greenbrier last week, but given that he had never finished better than T72 in the West Virginia event, he should still be feeling good about the state of his game heading into TPC Deere Run.

Gay’s recent history at the John Deere Classic is similarly poor, but he has had some success in the event before, posting a T9 in 2011. This course should be a good fit for his game, and he is another player eyeing that last exemption into the Open Championship field.

Odds: 110/1
World Rank: 121
Last JDC Start: MC (2017)
Last Seven: 39, 8, 20, 12, 44, 12, 72


12. HAROLD VARNER III

Harold Varner PGA Tour
Harold Varner III acknowledges the crowd on the 18th green after finishing his third round of A Military Tribute At The Greenbrier at the Old White TPC in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Photo Credit: Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Old White TPC at The Greenbrier was both great and disappointing to Harold Varner III. After bogey-free rounds of 64 and 66 in rounds 2 and 3, HVIII held the 54-hole co-lead, but struggled on Sunday to a disappointing 2-over 72, which dropped him to T5, where he missed a spot in the Open Championship field on a tiebreaker.

He should be exceptionally motivated this week, and if he brings the iron game that allowed him to finish third in the Greenbrier field in greens in regulation, he should stand a great chance to nab that last spot at Carnoustie. While he has missed a lot of cuts since April, last week’s T5 was not his only recent highlight; Varner also finished T7 at THE PLAYERS Championship, and had a second-round 65 at the Quicken Loans National just two weeks ago.

Odds: 60/1
World Rank: 184
Last JDC Start: MC (2017)
Last Seven: 5, 41, MC, MC, 51, MC, 7


11. JOEL DAHMEN

Joel Dahmen PGA Tour
Joel Dahmen reacts to a missed putt during the final round of the 2018 Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac (Maryland). Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images

With six finishes inside the top 25 in his last eight starts, including a T5 at The Greenbrier last week, Dahmen is another player who would fit the tournament narrative of first-time career winners. He was second in last week’s field in strokes gained: tee-to-green, third in greens in regulation, and has been hitting his fairways all year.

Dahmen will be exceptionally motivated this week, as a victory would put him in the field for next week’s Open Championship, as well as simply finishing in the top 5 and placing highest among players not already qualified. It would be the first career major start for the 30-year-old.

Odds: 80/1
World Rank: 298
Last JDC Start: MC (2017)
Last Seven: 5, 23, MC, MC, 20, 16, 16


JDC POWER RANKINGS: 5 PAYOFF PICKS

10. AUSTIN COOK

Austin Cook PGA Tour
Austin Cook plays his shot from the 12th tee during the first round of the FedEx St. Jude Classic at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tenn. Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

Cook got his rookie season off to a tremendous start, highlighted by a victory at the RSM Classic in November, but an extended midseason slump had many believing that the 27-year-old hit the rookie wall. Over the past three weeks, however, he notched two of his three top 10s on the year: a T6 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, and a T5 last week at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, the latter of which earned him a spot in next week’s Open Championship field.

He is comfortably in the FedExCup Playoffs (for at least the first three rounds), and has his Tour card wrapped up for the next two years, but he is still chasing the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year award, and a successful week at TPC Deere Run would help him further cement his chances. Cook lead The Greenbrier field in driving accuracy, which led to just to him carding just a single hole over par in each of the first three rounds.

Odds: 40/1
World Rank: 99
Last JDC Start: N/A
Last Seven: 5, MC, 6, MC, MC, 46, 34


9. ANDREW LANDRY

Andrew Landry PGA Tour
Andrew Landry lines up a putt on the 18th green during the final round of the Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac (Maryland). Credit: Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

It has been the epitome of a “hit or miss” season for Andrew Landry, who has a victory, and a runner-up among five top 10 finishes this season, but has also played fewer weekends (9), than he has missed (11).

The man currently inside the top 20 of the FedExCup standings snapped an absolutely brutal six-week stretch with a T8 at the Quicken Loans National two weeks ago, an event where he posted a first round 63 and a third round 65. He has yet to string together back-to-back quality finishes this year, but after taking last week off, he should be well-rested for a tournament where he finished T8 in his only appearance (2016).

Odds: 45/1
World Rank: 68
Last JDC Start: T8 (2016)
Last Seven: 8, MC, 65, MC, 67, WD, 1


8. CHESSON HADLEY

Chesson Hadley PGA Tour
Chesson Hadley hits off the second tee during the final round of the 2018 Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac (Maryland). Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Maybe the streakiest player on the PGA Tour, Hadley emerged from one of his funks with a T8 at the Quicken Loans National, his most recent start. Prior to that three-start slide where he went T40-CUT-CUT, Hadley had finished inside the top 20 in seven straight starts.

If Hadley, who currently ranks 4th on Tour in strokes gained: approach-the-green really has his top-notch iron game back, he is worth a watch in this weak field at TPC Deere Run as he seeks his first victory since his 2014 rookie season. Hadley has seven top-10s this season, which has been surpassed by just two players on Tour this year (Dustin Johnson, Brian Harman).

Odds: 30/1
World Rank: 62
Last JDC Start: 25 (2017)
Last Seven: 8, MC, MC, 40, 20, 11, 16


7. KYLE STANLEY

Kyle Stanley PGA Tour
Kyle Stanley hits a shot during the third round of the 2018 Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn. Credit: Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

Few players on Tour have showcased better accuracy in 2018 than the 30-year-old Stanley, who currently ranks fourth on Tour in driving accuracy, and fifth in greens in regulation, a big part of the reason he has finished in the top 25 in 10 of 18 starts.

Top five finishes at the WGC-Match Play (T5) and The Memorial (T2) came against much, much stronger fields, which should give the World No. 38 considerable confidence. He already has a spot at Carnoustie next week, but would be thrilled to leave Silvus this week with career victory No. 3.

Odds: 20/1
World Rank: 38
Last JDC Start: 55 (2017)
Last Seven: 32, 15, MC, 2, MC, 13, 52


6. RYAN MOORE

Ryan Moore PGA Tour
Ryan Moore watches his ball during round three of the 2018 A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier at the Old White TPC in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Credit: Michael Owens/Getty Images

Ryan Moore watches his ball during round three of the 2018 A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier at the Old White TPC in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Credit: Michael Owens/Getty Images

The 2016 John Deere Classic champion jumped to a big lead with 65s on each of the first three rounds of that event. Moore missed the cut in his title defense last year, but it should be noted that it was his first start coming off a layoff from a shoulder injury. Moore has not landed in the winner’s circle on the PGA Tour since, but has been very solid in 2018, placing in the top 25 of 50% (8 of 16) of his season starts.

As he often has throughout his career, Moore has exhibited excellent accuracy off the tees this year, currently ranking 3rd on Tour in driving accuracy. That work from the tee box is a big part of the season that he ranks 13th on Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green, and 17th in scoring average. Moore will be looking to refine his game further ahead of his next attempt at career major No. 1 next week at the Open Championship.

Odds: 18/1
World Rank: 77
Last JDC Start: MC (2017)
Last Seven: 13, MC, 13, 30, 7, 16, 28


JDC POWER RANKINGS: 5 POWER PICKS

5. STEVE STRICKER

Steve Stricker PGA Tour
Steve Stricker reacts after a missed birdie putt on the 18th green during the Champions Tour’s 2018 American Family Insurance Championship at University Ridge GC in Madison, WI. Credit: Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 51-year-old Stricker, basically a local, has been the ultimate horse for the course at TPC Deere Run, coming away with the titles in 2009, 2010, and 2011, making him the last Tour player to win a single event three consecutive times. He also had top 11 finishes in 2012, 2013, and 2014.

The Champions Tour star (he has placed in the top 5 of all six events he has played on that Tour, including two victories) had John Deere down years in 2015 and 2016, leading many to think that his time as a Tour winner had passed, but then last year, he shot 65-64 on the weekend, even holding a back-nine lead before finishing T5.

On the PGA Tour, Stricker is coming off two consecutive top-20s, including a T20 at The U.S. Open, a tournament with an infinitely better field. Stricker sure does not look like he is done being competitive on the big Tour.

Odds: 20/1
World Rank: 134
Last JDC Start: MC (2017)
*Last Seven: 20, 18, 32, 23, MC, 12, 26
*PGA TOUR STARTS ONLY


4. ZACH JOHNSON

Zach Johnson PGA Tour
Zach Johnson hits off the first tee during round three of the 2018 Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn. Credit: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The native Iowan draws considerable fanfare at the John Deere Classic, and in the past decade the two-time major champion has given those fans many reasons to cheer. In his last nine starts at TPC Deere Run, Johnson has a victory (2012) and three runner-ups among SEVEN finishes inside the top 5.

To no surprise, Zach contended again last year, opening with a 65 and posting a T5 despite coming into the week in poor recent form. Coming into this year’s event, he looks much better, making 17 of 18 cuts on the season, and recently placing T12 at The U.S. Open. He has never been a power hitter, but his touch and finesse make him among the top players to watch at this event yet again.

Odds: 12/1
World Rank: 51
Last JDC Start: T5 (2017)
Last Seven: 19, 12, 40, MC, 75, 5, 42


3. JOAQUIN NIEMANN

Joaquin Niemann PGA Tour
Joaquin Niemann reacts after putting in the third round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village GC in Dublin, Ohio. Credit: Getty Images/Keyur Khamar

A T5 at last week’s A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier was the 19-year-old Chilean star’s fourth top 10 in just eight career professional events, and victory No. 1 of what should be many feels very, very close. Could it be this week at the John Deere Classic?

There is a lot of precedent as the 46 editions of the event have yielded 21 first-time PGA champions, and nobody doubts that Niemann is the most talented player in the world without a professional win. His chipping could still use a little work, but every other part of his game is undeniably victory-ready.

Odds: 16/1
World Rank: 171
Last JDC Start: N/A
Last Seven: 5, 17, MC, 6, 8, MC, MC


2. BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU

Bryson DeChambeau PGA Tour
Bryson DeChambeau hits off the first tee during round three of the 2018 Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn. Credit: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The John Deere Classic defending champion DeChambeau took last year’s title at TPC Deere Run with a back nine tear, making the event the event his first career victory at just 23 years of age. The unconventional star has blossomed in his 2018 season, making 16 of 18 cuts, and among seven top 10s was career victory No. 2, at the recent Memorial Tournament.

Now No. 22 in the world and No. 6 in the current FedExCup standings, DeChambeau is a strong co-favorite this week, and with his pristine recent form (5 top 10s in his last nine events) that is showing no weaknesses, he stands a great chance of pulling off the Tour’s third successful title defense of the season (Brendan Steele, Brooks Koekpa).

Odds: 10/1
World Rank: 22
Last JDC Start: 1 (2017)
Last Seven: 9, 25, 1, 42, 37, 4, 3


1. FRANCESCO MOLINARI

Francesco Molinari PGA Tour
Francesco Molinari talks strategy with his caddie during the final round of the 2018 Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac (Maryland). Credit: Getty Images/Sam Greenwood

A conspicuously large name in a weak field, Molinari is the highest ranked player at TPC Deere Run (World No. 15). The 35-year-old Italian is also the hottest player in the field, with two victories and a runner-up among his last four starts worldwide.

That most recent start was Molinari’s first career PGA Tour victory, a thorough 8-stroke beatdown at the Quicken Loans National. Just over a month ago, he also triumphed at the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s equivalent of THE PLAYERS Championship. Currently ranked second on Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green, he will be playing another perfect course for his skillset this week.

Will he be looking too much ahead to next week’s Open Championship, where he stands a great chance at capturing his first career major championship? That feels like the only thing that could potentially get in the way of a victory in the Open lead-in.

Odds: 10/1
World Rank: 15
Last JDC Start: N/A
Last Seven: 1, 25, 2, 1, MC, 16, 49


Joel Cook

Joel Cook is Pro Golf Weekly's Lead Writer. He is a member of the Golf Writer's Association of America.

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