With the season's third major now just one week away, many of the game's best head to the Midwest for a final tune-up event. TPC Deere Run hosts this week's John Deere Classic, an event where birdies will fly early and often and a venue where final-round fireworks can be expected.
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Zach Johnson returns as defending champion, a title he won last year in a playoff over Troy Matteson. Here are 10 players to watch this week in Illinois:
1. Steve Stricker: A three-time winner of this event from 2009-2011, Stricker 'only' managed a tie for fifth last year. Flourishing this season amid a reduced schedule, he makes his first start since a near-miss at Merion in an event that he has dominated in recent memory.
2. Zach Johnson: The Iowa native has struggled somewhat this year, but like Stricker always seems to find his groove in the Quad Cities. Before last year's win, Johnson tied for second in 2009 and tied for third in 2011. He's recorded 16 straight rounds in the 60s at TPC Deere Run.
3. Keegan Bradley: Making his first appearance in Moline, Bradley has finished inside the top 25 in more than half of his 2013 starts (9 of 17). He enters the week ranked in the top 20 on Tour in total driving (fourth), scoring average (15th), birdie average (17th) and the all-around ranking (13th).
4. Brendon de Jonge: Still looking to break through for his first PGA Tour win, the Zimbabwean tied for 17th at Greenbrier despite a Saturday 73. He's had success in the Quad Cities before, with last year's T-19 showing preceded by back-to-back ties for seventh in 2010 and 2011.
5. John Senden: The Aussie notched his lone PGA Tour win here in 2006 and has finished inside the top 15 in each of his last two appearances, a tie for 12th in 2010 and last year's solo fourth-place finish. Though he's failed to match last season's success in 2013, Senden has made four straight cuts, including a T-15 finish at the U.S. Open.
6. Louis Oosthuizen: Having taken time off this summer both for injury and for the birth of his child, Oosthuizen got back into the swing of things last week with a T-17 finish in Greenbrier. An avid farmer back home in South Africa, Oosthuizen may find extra motivation from this week's title sponsor.
7. Ryan Moore: Moore has been feast or famine of late, with three missed cuts along with three top-15 finishes comprising his last six PGA Tour starts, including a tie for seventh at TPC River Highlands in his last event. He's made the cut in each of four John Deere starts, including a tie for eighth last year, so he appears much more likely to spend the weekend in contention than at home.
8. Jordan Spieth: It's clear that it's only a matter of time before the former Longhorn hoists his first trophy on the PGA Tour. He was in contention in West Virginia before fading to a T-23 finish Sunday, but he seems able to challenge in virtually every event in which he plays. This week should be no exception.
9. Kevin Streelman: In the midst of the best season of his career, Streelman tees it up on a course where two of his three appearances have gone for top-10 finishes, including a tie for eighth last year. Though he's missed four straight cuts, a run of three straight top 10s preceded that stretch and this event may be what he needs to get back on track.
10. Luke Guthrie: Like the man at the top of the rankings, Guthrie played his college golf at Illinois and last year appeared buoyed by the Midwest crowds, ultimately tying for fifth in his first appearance at TPC Deere Run. With six top-25 finishes in 21 starts this year, he's on the verge of eclipsing $1 million in 2013 earnings and may very well do so this week in Moline.