Stat attack!: John Deere Classic preview

By John AntoniniJuly 8, 2014, 7:00 pm

Nothing against Jordan Spieth, who won the 2013 John Deere Classic at age 19, but the story of the last five years at the PGA Tour’s Quad Cities tournament has been the one-two punch of Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson (above), who have combined for four wins, two seconds, 37 rounds in the 60s, an aggregate of 184 strokes under par and more than $4.5 million in earnings. The Midwesterners – Stricker hails from Wisconsin, Johnson from Iowa – have a combined scoring average of 66.40 at TPC Deere Run. Here’s their record since 2009.

Steve Stricker at the John Deere Classic: 2009-2013

 Year Finish Scores To par Earnings
 2013 T-10 67-66-69-66—268 -16 $119,600
 2012 T-5 65-67-66-70—268 -16 174,800
 2011 Won 66-64-63-69—262 -22 810,000
 2010 Won 60-66-62-70—258 -26 792,000
 2009 Won 71-61-68-64—264 -20 774,000

Zach Johnson at the John Deere Classic: 2009-2013

 Year Finish Scores To par Earnings
 2013 T-2 64-66-67-68—265 -19 $404,800
 2012 Won 68-65-66-65—264 -20 828,000
 2011 T-3 66-69-67-65—267 -17 261,000
 2010 T-21 67-69-69-68—273 -11 36,418
 2009 T-2 69-68-64-66—267 -17 321,066

Johnson has a collective under-par score on 16 of the 18 holes at Deere Run, with a the 18th hole giving him fits. In 2010 he was 5 over on the finishing hole, although it didn’t’ matter much as he finished 15 strokes behind Stricker, who set a tournament-record at 26-under 258. Stricker is also over par on the finishing hole, although by just a stroke. He’s an astounding 45 under on the par-5 holes  at TPC Deere Run in the last five years.

So picking a winner has never been easier, right? Well, OK, right. A win is never a guarantee at any PGA Tour event – neither player won last year, remember – but the way they’ve played this course, Stricker and Johnson should make another run at the JDC this week.

A good week won’t come a moment too soon for Stricker, who is 125th on the FedEx Cup standings and has said he probably won’t play the British Open. He’s 42nd on the Ryder Cup standings. Johnson, too, is on the outside of the automatic eight spots that will make up the bulk of Captain Tom Watson’s team. At 15th, he has some work to do as well.

U.S. Ryder Cup standings

 Rank Player Points
 1 Bubba Watson 6,828.138
 2  Jimmy Walker 5,379.505
 3  Dustin Johnson 4,844.499
 4 Matt Kuchar 4,716.483
 5  Jordan Spieth 4,547.698
 6 Jim Furyk 4,302.834
 7 Rickie Fowler 3,831.433
 8 Jason Dufner 3,466.285
 9 Patrick Reed 3,301.393
 10 Brendon Todd 3,177.977
 11 Phil Mickelson 3,095.086
 12  Webb Simpson 3,086.070

A victory this week would move Johnson into the top eight and get Stricker halfway there, into the low 20s (although given his penchant for spending time with his family, would Stricker want to be make the trip to Gleneagles if he doesn’t make the team on merit?) If you’re wondering, Tiger Woods is 72nd, percentage points behind Jim Renner.

The top finisher among the top five at the John Deere Classic will qualify for the British Open, as Jordan Spieth did when he won in 2013. Who might be the best bets for that final spot? The following players are not currently exempt into Hoylake and have finished in the top five at the JDC in the last three years.

JDC contenders who are not qualified for the British Open

 Player World ranking Best JDC finish
 David Hearn 94 T-2 in 2013
 Daniel Summerhays 95 T-4 in 2013
 Jerry Kelly 139 T-4 in 2013
 Luke Guthrie 149 T-5 in 2012
 Martin Flores 151 T-4 in 2013
 Kyle Stanley 228 2 in 2011 
 Troy Matteson 559 2 in 2012

The following players in the field, also not exempt into the British Open, have played well in recent weeks on the PGA Tour.

Top recent PGA Tour performers not qualified for the British Open

 Player Best recent performances Best previous JDC finish
 Chad Campbell T-7 Travelers Seventh in 2008
 Bud Cauley T-11 Travelers, T-4, Greenbrier 72nd in 2012
Robert Garrigus T-11 Quicken Loans T-23 in 2009
 Scott Langley T-11 Travelers, T-26 Greenbrier T-33 in 2013
 Richard H. Lee T-11 Quicken Loans No cuts made
 Andres Romero T-5 Quicken Loans T-21 in 2010
 Michael Thompson  T-11 Greenbrier T-12 in 2011
 Will Wilcox T-4 Greenbrier No starts

Among that group, Thompson is perhaps the best bet. Look out for Langley as well. He has put together some solid weeks and is a Illinois native, no small thing at this event. 

One final thought: With most of the best international players already overseas preparing for the Open Championship, the John Deere Classic has been dominated by American players. Spieth’s win a year was the seventh straight by an American, and among the top-10 finishers only Canadian David Hearn (T-2) and Aussie Matt Jones (T-7) were foreign born. John Senden was the only non-American in the top 10 in 2012, as were Brendon de Jonge and Cameron Percy in 2011.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."