After two consecutive weeks of brand-new events, the PGA Tour heads back to a yearly fixture this week, as the 48th edition of the John Deere Classic tees off at TPC Deere Run on the Illinois side of its border with Iowa; an area colloquially known as the Quad Cities.
In its usual place on the PGA Tour schedule the week before The Open Championship, the John Deere Classic traditionally does not draw an especially strong field, and this year is no exception.
With the final major of the year taking place at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, most of the top stars would rather not risk the logistics of a long trek so late, but for those in the Open field who remain stateside, a charter flight awaits to shuttle them to Europe upon the conclusion of this week’s event in middle America.
In that charter flight remains one open seat (pun intended): given to the highest finisher (among the top five on the final leaderboard) of the John Deere Classic not already exempt for The Open.
Most notable among those hoping to play high-stakes golf outside the U.S. next week is Matthew Wolff, the 20-year-old phenom who who, in just his fourth career PGA Tour start, won last week’s 3M Open in highly-dramatic fashion. He qualified for two of next year’s majors, but would prefer to not have to wait until then to make his first career major start.
Collin Morikawa, the 22-year-old who Wolff battled down the stretch last week in Minnesota, will also be in the field, and having recently turned professional, himself. He is hoping to replicate Wolff’s accomplishment and acquire PGA Tour membership early in his professional career.
It may not be a strong field, but it is a highly motivated one. In addition to the Open exemption, players are fighting to lock up Tour cards, and jockeying for spots in next month’s FedExCup Playoffs. The Fourth of July might have come and gone, but in an event with exceptionally low scoring, there will be no shortage of fireworks this week.
Tournament: John Deere Classic
Dates: July 11-14, 2019
Where: Silvis, Ill.
Course: TPC Deere Run
Distance: Par 71, 7,268 yards
Architect: D.A. Weibring/Chris Gray
Title Sponsor: John Deere
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Winning Share: $1,080,000
Defending Champion: Michael Kim
Top-10 Betting Favorites: Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Lucas Glover, Matthew Wolff, Brian Harman, Charles Howell III, Joaquin Niemann, Kevin Streelman, Ryan Moore, Sungjae Im
Watch & Follow
Rd 1: Thu 4-7:00 pm (GOLF)
Rd 2: Fri 4-7:00 pm (GOLF)
Rd 3: Sat 1-2:45 pm (GOLF)
Rd 3: Sat 3-6:00 pm (CBS)
Rd 4: Sun 1-2:45 pm (GOLF)
Rd 4: Sun 3-6:00 pm (CBS)
The roots of the John Deere Classic, originally a satellite event held in Iowa, go back to 1972, when future PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman defeated 8-time major champion Tom Watson by a single stroke.
The event, which was moved into Illinois after four years, does not have the illustrious list of past winners that most Tour events do, but there have been a number of notables, including Payne Stewart, Vijay Singh, Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Bryson DeChambeau.
Stricker and course designer D.A. Weibring hold the tournament win record win three apiece. Stricker’s three victories (2009, 2010, 2011) represent that last time anyone on Tour won the same event in three consecutive years.
The John Deere Classic nabbed headlines in 2005 and 2006 when teenage LPGA star Michelle Wie was given sponsor’s exemptions. She missed the cut by just two strokes on her first attempt, and withdrew after a first-round 77 on her second attempt.
Spieth’s victory in 2013 was the first of his career, as the then 19-year-old holed out from the bunker on the final hole of regulation to force a playoff he would eventually win. He became the first under-20 winner on the PGA Tour in more than 80 years.
3 – Steve Stricker (2009-11)
3 – D.A. Weibring (1979, 91, 95)
258 (-26) Steve Stricker (2010)
1999-19: John Deere Classic
1995-98: Quad City Classic
1986-94: Hardee’s Golf Classic
1985-85: Lite Quad Cities Open
1982-84: Miller High Life QCO
1980-81: Quad Cities Open
1975-79: Ed McMahon-Jaycees Quad Cities Open
1972-74: Quad Cities Open
2018: Michael Kim (-25)
2017: Bryson DeChambeau (-18)
2016: Ryan Moore (-22)
2015: Jordan Spieth (-20)
2014: Brian Harman (-22)
2013: Jordan Spieth (-19)
2012: Zach Johnson (-20)
2011: Steve Stricker (-22)
Stat of the Week
32 – The average finish, the following week, at The Open Championship of the John Deere Classic Champion, the past five times the JDC was held the week before The Open (2013-2018, with the exception of 2016, when the John Deere was moved to August to accommodate golf’s return to The Olympics).
A Further Breakdown:
2018: Michael Kim – T35
2017: Bryson DeChambeau – T51
2015: Jordan Spieth – T4
2014: Brian Harman – T26
2013: Jordan Spieth – T44
Spieth’s T4 skews the stat some (although it should be noted that The Open Champion that year, Zach Johnson, was also at the John Deere Classic the week prior), but it shows that playing this event is not the detriment to a good week at The Open that the weaker fields would indicate.
At the very least, the JDC winners do not seem to have trouble making the cut, despite the event being one of the toughest cuts of the year to make.
1. Champion Wolff
Last week at the inaugural 3M Open, 20-year-old Matthew Wolff became the first player under the age of 21 to win a PGA Tour event since Jordan Spieth took the John Deere Classic in 2013.
Wolff, who turned pro just last month at the Travelers Championship, was making only his fourth ever Tour start, and third as a professional. He was not completely under-the-radar, as the talented Oklahoma State product had won the NCAA Individual title earlier this year, but after results of T80 and MC in his two previous starts, reaching 21-under par for the week and winning was more than a little surprise.
In the process, he jumped from 1,659th to 135th in the world rankings. Now, Wolff will attempt to capture his second career victory the week after his first when he tees up at TPC Deere Run this week.
Is it too much to expect him to be competitive this week? Probably, but not much about him seems ordinary.
2. Kim Defends
A year ago at the John Deere Classic, Michael Kim shocked the golf world when he dominated TPC Deere Run to the tune of an 8-stroke romp, the largest margin of victory in the history of the event, and the largest of the PGA Tour season.
Coming into that week, he had posted just one top-10 in 84 career PGA Tour starts, but with the win, gave hope that many more might be coming. They have not.
In fact, Kim has been downright abysmal in the past 12 months. For the 2019 season, Kim has made just four cuts in 24 starts, and the only cut he’s made since January was at the year-opening Sentry Tournament of Champions, a no-cut event where he finished tied for dead last in the 33-man field.
Kim has failed to make the weekend in 18 straight starts, and has not finished under-par in any event since his cut-missing 1-under at January’s Farmers Insurance Open. He currently sports the Tour’s 198th-ranked scoring average… out of 198 qualified golfers.
Despite being 193rd in driving distance, he somehow ranks 192nd in driving accuracy, and is 198th in greens in regulation. Simply put, he has been really, really bad.
However, something about TPC Deere Run obviously suits his eye well, and maybe a return to a course where he posted an elite performance will get his game back on track.
3. ZJ Back Again
Two-time major champion and Iowa native Zach Johnson has been popular in the Quad Cities, and he tees it up again this year in an event where he has a stellar history.
Johnson won the 2012 John Deere Classic, the best result of seven top-5 finishes since 2009. He has not been quite as phenomenal in his past three starts here, but his T16 a year ago included a 7-under 64 in the final round, showing that as far as this course and event go, he still has it.
Arguably the biggest name in the field, the 43-year-old is again among the favorites to stand in the winner’s circle on Sunday, but if he is going to capture career victory No. 13, he will need to play much better than he has this season.
In 16 starts on the year, Johnson has just one top-10 and three top-25s. His world ranking has dropped from 66th to 108th since 2018 ended, and at 140th in the FedExCup Standings, he is at risk of missing next month’s playoffs entirely.
4. Howell The Highest
A startling sign of how weak this week’s field is: the highest ranked player set to tee up at TPC Deere Run is No. 55 Charles Howell III. Currently ranked 15th in the FedExCup Standings, the 40-year-old from the recently-hyped Oklahoma State University program is having a good season on the whole, but has dropped off considerably since a hot start.
Since April, Howell has made nine starts, with his T23 at last week’s 3M Open his only finish inside the top 30. In each of the past two weeks, he has gotten himself into contention early, only to struggle badly on the weekend and finish well off the pace. In particular, he was only two strokes off the 54-hole lead last week, but his final-round even-par 71 was the worst score among those who finished inside the final top 45.
This will be his first attempt at the John Deere Classic since he opened with a 63 two years ago, en route to a T19 finish.
5. Hovland Moving Along
While Charles Howell III has been getting off to hot starts and then running out of steam, arguably nobody has been better on Sundays the past two weeks than Viktor Hovland, who has gone 64-65 in his past two final rounds, leading to back-to-back T13 finishes.
The 21-year-old was a college teammate of Matthew Wolff, and like Wolff, turned professional at last month’s Travelers Championship. The big difference between he and Wolff’s debuts, however, is that Hovland was coming off a T12 at the U.S. Open where he broke Jack Nicklaus’ amateur scoring record at the event.
It was somewhat surprising that Wolff beat him to the Tour winner’s circle, but career victory No. 1 feels very close for the Norweigan. Could that come this week?
As an event the week before the season’s final major (located in Northern Ireland to boot), the field at the John Deere has the feel of an opposite field event. And the 24 OWGR points available to the winner reflects the lack of star power, as it’s the minimum number of points awarded to a PGA Tour event.
The field’s highest ranked player is Charles Howell III at No. 55. The 40-year old Howell is slotted at No. 6 in this week’s rankings, while a resurgent Lucas Glover is this week’s top power pick with Joaquin Niemann and Brian Harman rounding out the top three.
Power Rank-Player (World Rank)
1. Lucas Glover (75)
2. Joaquin Niemann (79)
3. Brian Harman (88)
4. Sungjae Im (62)
5. Zach Johnson (108)
6. Charles Howell III (55)
7. Viktor Hovland (237)
8. Troy Merritt (160)
9. Kyle Stanley (56)
10. Vaughn Taylor (125)
Sleeper Pick: Denny McCarthy
A look at the past champions of this event shows that putting is king at TPC Deere Run. With that in mind, it makes sense to give extra attention this week to Denny McCarthy, the Tour’s current leader in strokes gained: putting.
However, it is not THAT lazy of an analysis, as the 26-year-old University of Virginia product has been rounding into form as of late, with finishes of T23 and T21 in his past two starts, respectively. His tee-to-green game will need to be considerably better than it has as of late if he wants to become the Tour’s most recent first-time winner, but the fact that he is putting the lights out despite not always putting himself in the best position gives the sense that even a modest improvement with his irons this week could really cause him to take off.
A year ago at this tournament, he played great the first three days with rounds of 65-69-66 had him at 13-under going into the final day. He tripped up on Sunday, shooting a 2-over 73 to drop to T34, but for his debut performance, he did show a level of comfort.
Full Field & Odds
Let’s be honest. Even though next week’s Barbasol Championship is considered the British Open’s opposite-field event, this week’s John Deere is just as weak (24 OWGR points), as not a single player ranked inside the world top-50 will be teeing it up at TPC Deere Run.
The co-favorites are newly minted tour pros Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland, who own a combined 11 starts in 2019 and are not yet PGA Tour members.
The two former All Americans are listed at 16-1 by the bookmakers, slightly ahead of Lucas Glover, and last week’s winner, 20-year old Matthew Wolff – who are offered at 20-1.
Chilean Joaquin Niemann, another 20-year old stud, was next at 25-1, alongside 21-year old Korean star Sungjae Im, and American veterans Charles Howell III, Kevin Streelman, Ryan Moore, and Brian Harman.
Top-5 Betting Favorites
1. Collin Morikawa (16-1)
1. Viktor Hovland (16-1)
3. Lucas Glover (20-1)
3. Matthew Wolff (20-1)
5. Joaquin Niemann (25-1)
5. Sungjae Im (25-1)
5. Charles Howell III (25-1)
5. Kevin Streelman (25-1)
5. Ryan Moore (25-1)
5. Brian Harman (25-1)
Odds To Win
“It’s life-changing. This is always something I’ve dreamed of as a kid growing up. I learned a lot, and to have it end like this was everything I could have hoped and wished for.”
– Matthew Wolff on his victory at last week’s 3M Open.
The 20-year-old will be making his first start as a Tour champion at this week’s John Deere Classic.
Credits: PGA Tour Media, Getty Images