JOHN DEERE: The PGA Tour has made a regular stop in the Quad Cities area of the Illinois/Iowa border for over 50 years, and though the tournament now known as the John Deere Classic has never been the type of premier event that draws the Tour’s biggest names, it has carved out a niche as one of the more enjoyable weeks for the players due to its fun, offbeat vibe, tremendous local fan support, and a golf course that is always perfectly conditioned and never too stressful. It’s a week that reminds the players why they wanted to be professional golfers in the first place.

Formerly held the week before the Open, the Tour has tweaked the schedule a bit due to next week’s Scottish Open now being a co-sanctioned PGA/DP World Tour event, so those famed Sunday night flights from Quad Cities International to Heathrow that the tournament always sponsored will no longer be necessary. Still, there are a handful of guys who will be heading to Scotland immediately following play this week, including market leaders Sungjae Im (16.0) and Sepp Straka (17.5), and many others will be hoping to join them at Royal Troon, as the top two finishers in this tournament who aren’t already exempt for the Open will see their tickets punched. So, if the $8 million purse wasn’t motivation enough, perhaps the opportunity to compete in a major will get the juices flowing. It should be a fun week.

The venue, TPC Deere Run, is a beautifully manicured parkland-style course that simply isn’t difficult enough to pose a serious challenge for the world’s best players. That’s not a knock on the place– sometimes watching the pros string together birdies is more enjoyable than watching them struggle for pars– but it’s something that we should understand very clearly when handicapping this event. It’s taken 20-under or better to win this tournament in 11 of the past 14 years, and the three years it fell short of that number the winning scores were 19-under (twice) and 18-under. The fairways are wide and soft enough, the greens are receptive and smooth enough… if you want to collect the big check this week, you’d better bring your birdies.

Sepp Straka got the job done last year for his second career PGA Tour victory and he’s logged a pair of top-5 finishes over the past month, so it’s no surprise to see him near the top of the market at (a shortish) 17.0. Fair warning, though– this event has often produced some surprising champions, with the likes of Michael Kim, Dylan Frittelli, and Lucas Glover finding the winner’s circle in recent years. We want guys who are playing well at the moment, have some good history at Deere Run, and aren’t afraid to go low. This is a week to favor the streaky player over the grinder. With that in mind, here’s what I’m thinking:

WIN MARKET

Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)

Denny McCarthy (27.0)- Though McCarthy has already punched his ticket to Royal Troon, he’s in too good of a groove right now to miss out on another chance at TPC Deere Run, a course he has absolutely devoured over the past two years, shooting 16-under and finishing T6 in both ’23 and ’22. He’s been the best putter on Tour for some time now– he once again ranks 1st in putts per round and one-putt percentage and 2nd in strokes gained putting– and the perfectly smooth bentgrass greens at Deere Run are an ideal canvas for him to paint another masterpiece. His tee-to-green game has improved this season, particularly his iron play, and it’s resulted in a career year in which he’s made 15 of 17 cuts, banked nearly $3 million in official earnings, and came within a whisker of picking up his first PGA Tour victory at the Valero Texas Open, where he lost in a playoff. He’s got a great opportunity to finally get over the hump this week and is reasonably priced at 27.0.

Seamus Power (50.0)- Through 10 starts this season Power had yet to record a top-25 finish and was struggling mightily off the tee, which makes it nearly impossible to succeed at top-level professional golf. He’s straightened things out, however, and is now getting closer to the form he displayed last year, when he recorded a victory and ten top-25 finishes across 26 starts. He’s now finished 26th or better 5 times in his past 9 starts, including a T20 last time out at the Travelers Championship, a Signature Event, where he closed with a sparkling Sunday 63. That should give him a jolt of confidence heading into this week, as will his history at Deere Run, as Power has logged four top-25s in five career appearances at this event, including a T13 last year and a T8 in 2021. He feels like an ideal dark horse candidate in a field that is light on star power, and the price is right.

Greyson Sigg (120.0)- Though it’s taken Sigg a bit longer than some of his ex-teammates at the University of Georgia to find success in the professional ranks, he’s shown that he has the tee-to-green ability to compete with anyone. For him, it’s a matter of making putts, and lately he’s been better in that regard, which is why he’s found the top-15 three times in his past eight starts, including a pair of top-10s. Sigg seems to like the smooth greens at Deere Run, as he’s finished T13 (’23) and T16 (’22) in his only two appearances at this tournament, and with the way he hits his irons (14th on Tour in strokes gained on approach) we know he’ll be giving himself plenty of birdie looks. This is the type of player who is probably overdue for a breakout win, and at a price like 120.0 I’m willing to roll the dice on him this week.


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