DraftKings PGA: John Deere Classic Picks and Strategy

DraftKings PGA: John Deere Classic Picks and Strategy

This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.

JOHN DEERE CLASSIC

Purse: $7.1M
Winner's Share: 1.278M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Silvis, Ill.
Course: TPC Deere Run
Yardage: 7,289
Par: 71
2021: Lucas Glover

Tournament Preview

As the tournament that preceded the Open Championship every year, the John Deere Classic never got a good field. This year, things are a little different. Oh, the field is still weak. It's just that this year, the Deere is taking place two weeks before the Open to make way for next week's Scottish Open, which now is co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour and DP World Tour. We'd be remiss to not mention what else is going on in golf this week – the second LIV event in Portland, Ore.

Unfortunately for Deere tournament organizers and fans, a lot of attention will be focused on the LIV this week, not only because more big name players will make their debuts but also because this one will be in the United States. This no doubt was the plan, to go opposite a weak event.

But to the people of the Quad Cities, all eyes will be on the Deere. You'd be hard-pressed to find a community more devoted to its golf tournament. There aren't many sporting events in this area of Illinois/Iowa, certainly not before college football season starts up. So it was a crushing blow to the locals when the 2020 tournament was canceled because of the pandemic. And now just two years later, there is this latest challenge from a renegade tour.

to make matters worse, this year's field is weak even by Deere standards. Last year, there were five guys ranked top-50 in the world. This year? Zippo. Webb Simpson at No. 58 is the top-ranked guy in the field, followed by No. 66 Sahith Theegala, No. 75 Christiaan Bezuidenhout and No. 80 Adam Hadwin. Other names of note include Jason Day, Maverick McNealy and U.S. Ryder Cup caption and 2012 champion Zach Johnson. Lucas Glover is back to defend his title and 2019 winner Dylan Frittelli is also on hand. Nick Hardy, ranked 235th in the world, is another name of note, and he is because he hails from nearby Northbrook, Ill., attended the University of Illinois and thus was granted one of the few pre-tournament media sessions.

Every year, the Deere doles out sponsor invites to college stars just embarking on their pro careers. Chris Gotterup out of Oklahoma and Duke's Quinn Riley are this year's recipients, Gotterup has already played a few pro events and made the cut at the U.S. Open and again last week at the Travelers. Riley played in a Korn Ferry event earlier this month but missed the cut.

Here's one thing about lineup construction that we mention a few times a year: Don't get caught up in sticker shock. Just about all of these guys are listed with prices that we'd never pay most weeks. But the field is so weak that guys could be $1,000 or even $2,000 more than usual, and we just have to get over it. As you'll see, our picks this week are a bit different from most weeks, as we focus on more value-oriented plays.

TPC Deere Run has been the host course ever since the D.A. Weibring design was completed in 2000. The tournament dates to 1971, when future PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman won the first two editions that were known as the Quad Cities Open. Weibring himself went on to win it three times, but never at Deere Run.

We all know this week will be a birdie-fest. The course has played host to a handful of 59s. Paul Goydos turned the trick in the first round in 2010. Unfortunately for Goydos, Stricker was right behind that day with a 60 en route to winning with a tourney-record 26-under-par. That perfectly illustrates the annual track meet that is the John Deere Classic. The winning score is generally north of 20-under (though not last year). The most exciting hole is the drivable 361-yard 14th, playing downhill to a tiny green. The hardest hole most years is the par-4, 476-yard 18th. That is one of only three par-4s that even exceeds 450 yards. They consider the 158-yard 16th to be the signature hole. Overall, the course is short, with only three par-5s, none reaching 600 yards. The fairways are generous. The bentgrass greens are on medium size, averaging 5,500 square feet with the stimpmeter running at around 12. There is water on three holes and 76 bunkers on the course.

After last year's tournament, "the course underwent a comprehensive bunker renovation and competitive enhancement project," according to the Golf Course Superintendents' sheet. "Bunkers were completely rebuilt with new grass surrounds, drainage, liners and sand, which also included reducing overall square footage by 30% and repositioning as needed to increase course strategy."

Even though the field is weak, there is a lot on the line – even more than just a PGA Tour win. The Deere is part of the Open Championship Qualifying Series and the four highest finishers inside the top-10 who aren't already exempt into St. Andrews will get a coveted spot in the historic 150th Open in two weeks.

Weather-wise, temperatures will be in the 80s all four days, with little chance of rain fairly light wind except on Thursday.

Fun John Deere factoid No. 1: Organizers tried to attract attention when Michelle Wie was given a sponsor's exemption two years in a row. She was inside the cut line in 2005 until a late double bogey/bogey did her in. The following year, far outside the cut line, Wie withdrew, citing the excessive heat.

Fun John Deere factoid No. 2: Roger Maltbie won the tournament in 1975, when it was known as, of all things, the Ed McMahon-Jaycees Quad Cities Open. Fellow golf announcer Curt Byrum won it in 1989. Some other winners were Payne Stewart, Scott Hoch, Vijay Singh and, more recently, Jordan Spieth (twice) and Bryson DeChambeau.

Key Stats to Winning at TPC River Highlands

The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.

• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Birdie-or-Better Percentage/Birdie Average

Past Champions

2010 - Lucas Glover
2020 - None
2019 - Dylan Frittelli
2018 - Michael Kim
2017 - Bryson DeChambeau
2016 - Ryan Moore
2015 - Jordan Spieth
2014 - Brian Harman
2013 - Jordan Spieth
2012 - Zach Johnson
2011 - Steve Stricker

Champion's Profile

Looking back over the last 10 editions, the winner here finished top-10 in putting eight times, with only Glover (19th) and Harman (31st) failing to do so. While Glover missed out last year, half of the top-10 on the leaderboard did finish in the top-10 in putting. Some very good putters have won this tournament, and even Harman is one of them. Interestingly, only four of the past 10 winners finished top-10 in greens in regulation, and Harman was again one of those. Last year, Glover won at "only" 19-under, two better than Kevin Na and Ryan Moore. He finished 15th in GIR but third in Strokes Gained: Approach, 17th in Around-the-Green, fourth in Tee-to-Green and 19th in Putting – a well-round stat sheet worthy of winning, certainly in a weak field. Glover ranked 24th in driving accuracy, which is pretty good, but generally finding fairways matters little. The over/under on the winning score on golfodds.com is 263.5, which is 20.5 shots under par and the same number as last year.

DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS

Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap

Tier 1 Values

Adam Hadwin - $10,400 (Winning odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook: +1000)
Hadwin might be playing better than anyone in the field right now, or at least he was before Theegala ($10,100) last week. Hadwin was seventh at the U.S. Open last time out and before that top-20 at the Memorial. Those are tougher, lower-scoring tracks than TPC Deere Run, but Hadwin is also ranked 42nd on Tour in birdie average. He hasn't played the Deere in years but was eighth last time in 2016. Hadwin also had a huge impetus outside of a PGA Tour win – he has yet to qualify for the Open Championship but can snag a spot by finishing top-10 and being one of the top three finishers who is not yet entered.

Denny McCarthy - $9,900 (+2200)
McCarthy missed the Travelers cut last week, but that followed top-10s at the U.S. Open and the Memorial. Playing only two rounds last week will surely help him here. McCarthy missed his past two cuts at the Deere, but he's a better player now and one of the top guys in the field at No. 93 in the OWGR. He is ranked fifth on Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting.

Maverick McNealy - $9,500 (+2500)
McNealy hadn't missed a cut in 2022 until failing to reach the weekend in his past two starts. So that is a bit of a concern, even in this field. But it also may depress his ownership. He has only one top-10 all year – way back in February at Riviera – but there's too much to like: McNealy was 18th here last year, is ranked 20th on Tour in birdie average and is No. 1 in eagles per hole.

Tier 2 Values

Scott Stallings - $8,900 (+3500)
Stallings has been an all-or-nothing guy this year, with a bunch of missed cuts but also a number of high finishes, including T8 last week at the Travelers. His big trouble spot is accuracy off the tee, something that's not of great concern this week. Stallings has made the Deere cut in four of his past five visits, including a top-5 and a top-20 but was T55 last year. He's ranked 39th on Tour in SG: Putting and 64th in Birdie-or-Better percentage.

Nick Hardy - $8,700 (+3500)
The Illinois native will face more pressure this week than usual given that he's a local, was given one of the few pre-tournament media sessions and surely will have friends and family rooting for him. But he also arrives playing his best golf, coming off three straight made cuts, including a T14 at the U.S. Open and a T8 at the Travelers. Hardy is ranked 18th on Tour in greens in regulation but will need to make more putts than usual. Still, he's ranked 71st in birdie average.

Brendon Todd - $8,500 (+3500)
Here we go again, with our guy Todd. He let us down last week with a missed cut at the Travelers. He last played the Deere in 2019, when he tied for 18th. Todd is ranked sixth on Tour in SG: Putting.

Cam Davis - $8,400 (+4500)
Davis is one of the highest-ranked guys in the field at No. 83 in the OWGR. He's made four straight cuts and 10-of-14 overall in 2022. He's also made the cut in both his Deere appearances, albeit with neither finish inside the top 50 on the leaderboard. Davis is ranked eighth on Tour in eagles per hole and 56th in BOB percentage.

Lanto Griffin - $8,200 (+5500)
Griffin tends to make a lot of birdies, ranking top-50 on Tour in birdie average and just outside the top 50 in BOB percentage. He's ranked 75th on Tour in SG: Total, and there aren't many guys in the this field ahead of him. Griffin has played the Deere only once before, and he made the cut in 2018.

Tier 3 Values

Tyler Duncan - $7,300 (+8000)
Yes, here's our short course favorite again. Duncan came through with a made cut last week, though he stumbled on the weekend and finished with a share of 46th place. He was priced at $6,400 a week ago, but this jump is warranted in this field. Duncan is ranked top-50 on Tour in both greens in regulation and SG: Tee-to-Green. He was 12th here in 2018, 26th in 2019 and missed the cut a year ago. He is ranked 60th in birdie average.

Chris Gotterup - $7,300 (+10000) 
The recent PGA Tour import from the University of Oklahoma made another cut last week, his third in four starts this year. If he can finish in the 40s at the U.S. Open and at the Travelers, how high can he go at the Deere? Gotterup was given a sponsor's invite here and should get more before the end of the season.

Chad Ramey - $7,000 (+12000)
Ramey has excelled in weak fields this year, winning in Puntacana and tying for fifth in Puerto Rico. The Deere will be stronger than those alternate-field events, but Ramey has shown the ability to deliver in better fields too. He was top-25 at the Wells Fargo and just missed another at Colonial. Despite being a pretty poor putter, Ramey is somehow ranked 38th on Tour in birdie average. He's surely made a bunch in those weak fields to skew his ranking.

Austin Smotherman - $7,000 (+11000)
Smotherman had made six straight cut and eight of nine before missing at the Travelers last week. He hits it pretty far and pretty straight, and he's ranked 64th on Tour in greens in regulation. But once he's on the green, things are not so great. Still, Smotherman is ranked 100th in birdie average and 102nd in BOB percentage, both above average on Tour.

Long-Shot Values

Vaughn Taylor - $6,800 (+13000)
This will be Taylor's 15th appearance at TPC Deer Run and he's made 10 cuts so far. He has a pair of top-10s, and one them came when he tied for sixth in 2019. He was also 34th last year. This has not been a great year for Taylor, though he's missed only two cuts in 10 starts, and of course most of the fields were far better than this one. He's ranked 35th on Tour in SG: Approach and 78th in Tee-to-Green.

Vince Whaley - $6,600 (+15000)
Whaley has missed more cuts than he's made in 2022, but when he's made them, he's had some decent finishes – a top-25 at the Byron Nelson and top-30 sat the Valero and Puntacana. He was even 17th at the Sony Open way back in January. What we really like about Whaley is he's ranked 45th in SG: Putting and 25th in birdie average. That means he also makes a lot of bogeys, but the number should not be so egregious this week.

Jim Knous - $6,300 (+40000)
These next two picks are not for the faint of heart. Knous has made only four cuts all year, two of them in opposite-field events in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. But another one came last time out in Canada, and not only that, it was a tie for 25th. Knous actually has a wonderful short game, ranked in the top-20 in both SG: Around-the-Green and Putting, plus he's ranked 20th on Tour in birdie average and 29th in BOB percentage.

Martin Trainer - $6,000 (+40000)
We're not here to tell you great things about Trainer. We're not even here to tell you he'll make the cut. We're here to tell you his price is off, maybe by a few hundred dollars. There are about 75 guys in this field with a lower world ranking than Trainer's 439th. It's not like he's missing every cut this year like some guys do; he's made almost half. Trainer is 132nd in the FedExCup Standings, which is pretty darn close to the top 125. And he's ranked ninth on Tour in SG: Putting, which means he always has a puncher's chance.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Len Hochberg plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DK: Bunker Mentality.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years. He was named 2020 "DFS Writer of the Year" by the FSWA and was nominated for the same award in 2019.
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