An eclectic 156-man field featuring PGA Tour members from an array of categories will be cavortin’ in Silvis, Ill., this week as the carnival returns for the John Deere Classic, a longtime host saddled with a difficult date on the schedule.
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Still, there are rosters to fill. The course is TPC Deere Run, a 7,268 yard, par-71 layout and the emphasis this week is on wedge play. As we work towards the John Deere Classic fantasy golf picks, here are a few keys to success and course notes:
- Identifying the men with the hottest putters is an unenviable task but sinking those 10-15 birdie attempts is pivotal. So is taking advantage of the three par-5s, each of which measure between 550-600 yards.
- We’re on bentgrass greens this week, continuing a trend. The greens are some of the easiest to hit in regulation on the PGA Tour, as are the fairways.
- But when the fairways are missed, the rough, trees and bunkers can be problematic. Many a pro has watched his shot at a victory fade away in the right trees on the difficult par-4 18th.
- Wedge play, wedge play, wedge play. Nearly 44 percent of the approach shots at TPC-Deere Run are launched from inside 150 yards. Look at the past champions of this event. Each played well here consistently: Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson, Jordan Spieth.
- Tried to identify players who are striking the ball well week-to-week and need the putter to cooperate for four days. Feels like a good week for some of the Tour’s youngsters to break out.
- We also emphasized players with a strong track record of shooting low scores when the scoring conditions are easier.
Fantasy Golf Picks: Longer Shots
25. Doug Ghim. Top 20 in this field in SG: Tee-to-Green (last 24 rounds) and SG: Ballstriking (last 50). Elite wedge skills from 75-125 yards combined with top-15 in the field in SG: Approach and Good Drives Gained should lead to frequent birdie opportunities.
24. Charles Howell III. Collected a top-25 finish in three of the last four John Deere Classics, putting well each time. Ranks sixth in scoring on easier courses and inside the top 30 in proximity from 75-100 and 100-125 yards. Gained four shots Tee-to-Green last week.
23. Adam Hadwin. Skipped last week after finishing T-7 in the U.S. Open, which was his fourth top-10 in the last nine starts. Numbers are strong through the bag, ranking third in proximity from 75-100 yards (last 75 rounds) and eighth in SG: Approach over the last 50. His last John Deere appearance was a T-8 in 2016.
22. Alex Smalley. Like the way his game matches this test and expect him to bounce back from a miserable effort at the Travelers. Recent ballstriking is top 15 in the field. Contended earlier in the season in shootouts in Mexico and Puntacana, ranking 20th in Birdies or Better gained.
21. Hank Lebioda. Game heats up in the summer. Made four of the last five cuts and gained 3.2 shots on approach in each of his last two starts. Finished eighth in last year’s John Deere, gaining 3.4 on approach and 5.1 on the greens.
20. Patrick Rodgers. Good match of current form and course fit who has performed well against weaker fields in his career. Finished T-23 in last year’s John Deere and runner-up in 2017. Gained shots on approach in seven of the last eight starts and Off the Tee in the last five.
19. Brendon Todd. Iron play went sideways at the Travelers, disrupting a positive ballstriking trend in recent weeks. Still, we’ll assume it’s a one-week blip and one of the Tour’s best putters is a wise selection when the birdies are plentiful. Tied for 18th in his last trip to the Quad Cities in 2019.
18. Maverick McNealy. Feels like a good time to jump back on the McNealy train. Despite missing both cuts, he gained shots on approach and around the greens in his last two starts and finished T-18 in last year’s John Deere, bettering the field average across the board.
17. Martin Laird. Has an unmatched recent ballstriking résumé in this field, slotting top-10 in SG: Tee-to-Green, SG: Approach and Good Drives Gained over the last 9-12 tournaments. Finished 13th in Connecticut despite losing nearly three shots on the greens.
16. John Huh. Gained more than 22 shots Tee-to-Green the last three starts (Colonial, Canadian, Travelers), producing a top-25 finish each time. Finds fairways and greens and his short game has been sharp over the last month.
15. Adam Long. Made the cut in both John Deere appearances, finishing T-23 a year ago and has a pair of top-25s in his last two starts, relying on strong play off the tee. His combination of Good Drives Gained and accuracy inside 125 yards is exciting.
14. Sahith Theegala. What’s the price of last week’s 72nd hole disaster? Not sure but know that he’s gained 20 shots Tee-to-Green in two of his last three starts, in particular riding hot iron play. Good on the longer par-5s and when scoring conditions are favorable.
13. Denny McCarthy. We’ve entered a world where the former University of Virginia standout is the fifth-highest priced player in certain fantasy markets. Has nine top-25s in the 2021-22 season and consecutive top-10s prior to missing the cut last week. Lackluster record at Deere Run though: two MCs and a T-34.
12. Tyler Duncan. Has a T-26 and a T-12 in the John Deere in the last four years and has quietly developed into one of the top iron players on the PGA Tour, gaining shots on approach in eight of the last nine starts.
11. Adam Svensson. Steadily improving in his rookie season on the PGA Tour. He’s made five consecutive cuts and gained 4.4 shots on approach at the Travelers, his best iron play since Hilton Head. Sundays remain unkind (182nd in scoring average) but the 66 last Saturday was promising.
Fantasy Golf Picks: Best Bets
10. Webb Simpson. The Vegas favorite this week continues to make progress, gaining three shots on approach and 5.6 Tee-to-Green in a T-13 at the Travelers. Strong record on easier courses, ranking third in Birdies or Better.
9. Nick Hardy. Healthy and rolling, backing up his T-14 in the U.S. Open with a T-8 at the Travelers and thriving with each club in the bag. He’s top-15 in scoring on easier courses over the last 50 rounds.
8. Adam Schenk. Finished in the top-6 in the John Deere each of the last two years and arrives in decent form (top-30 in Canadian and U.S. Opens). Good results on 550-600 yard par-5s and in general on easier courses. Missed the Travlers cut despite good ballstriking, losing 3.4 shots on the greens.
7. Lucas Glover. Sam Burns won the Valspar back-to-back. K.H. Lee followed suit at the Byron Nelson. Could the 2009 U.S. Open champion join the pair and defend his crown along the banks of the Rock River? Perhaps. He’s made 7 of the last 8 cuts, which is better form than he showed prior to gaining 7 shots on approach en route to last year’s victory.
6. Cam Davis. Was in the top-10 after 36 holes at the Travelers but slipped to a T-56. All shorter courses aren’t created equally (TPC Deere Run is a par-71), however he’s been a sharp pick in such circumstances, ranking second in Birdies or Better.
5. Matthias Schwab. Leads the field in proximity from 125-150 yards. Has landed in the top-10 in three tournaments in the 2021-22 season and gained shots on approach last week for the first time in a month.
4. Austin Smotherman. Grossly underpriced according to the model. He’s made the cut in eight of the last 10 tournaments and ranks second in the field in SG: Ballstriking over the last 50 and top 25 in Birdies or Better on easier courses. Putting stats continue to improve.
3. Nate Lashley. Recorded six top-25s in his last 10 starts and gained strokes in every significant area last week at the Travelers. Tied for 26th at the John Deere in his only appearance in 2019.
2. Scott Stallings. In the Tour’s last two visits to shorter, placement style courses (Colonial and Travelers), Stallings gained 15 shots on approach and earned a top-10 finish. Consistently razor sharp from 100-150 yards, has a T-5, T-16 and T-18 in the John Deere since 2016.
1. Lanto Griffin. Leads the field in scoring over the last 50 rounds in easier conditions and is sixth in SG: Ballstriking over the last 50 as well. Finished T-60 in his only John Deere in 2018 but his acumen from 100-125 yards (7th in proximity) and birdie generation are a good match for D.A. Weibring’s masterpiece.
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