Expert Picks: 2014 John Deere Classic


This week marks the 35th event of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, as players head to TPC Deere Run for the John Deere Classic. Each week, a panel of experts will offer up their picks from four groups of players, based on Golf Channel's fantasy game, Fantasy Challenge. We will also keep track of their scores and standings. The panel includes: senior writers Rex Hoggard, Randall Mell and Jason Sobel; contributors John Hawkins and John Antonini; editorial director Jay Coffin; 'Morning Drive' host Gary Williams; staff writer Ryan Lavner and defending fantasy champion Charlie Rymer.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Jordan Spieth: Defending a title is never easy, but Spieth has proven himself adept at avoiding the normal PGA Tour pitfalls and he's been solid all summer, finishing T-11 at the Quicken Loans National and not having missed a cut since April.

Group 2: Harris English: Since winning the OHL Classic at Mayakoba he hit a rough patch, missing the cut in four of his last eight starts, but he closed with a 67 in his last start and tied for seventh at the Travelers Championship.

Group 3: Billy Hurley III: Although he struggled on Sunday at the Greenbrier Classic after holding the second- and third-round leads, he's finished in the top 10 in his last two starts.

Group 4: Hudson Swafford: It hasn't been the best year for the promising rookie and he's running out of time at 140th on the FedEx Cup points list, but he's made the cut in his last three events and tied for 11th at the Quicken Loans National for his best finish since January.

Will Gray

Group 1: Zach Johnson: A winner here in 2012, Johnson has four top-five finishes in the last five years at this event and is riding a streak of 20 straight rounds in the 60s at TPC Deere Run. While he has cooled a bit since his torrid start to the season, he tends to step his game up at this event as a native of nearby Iowa and should do so again this week.

Group 2: Chris Kirk: Kirk was undone by a Saturday 75 at Greenbrier but he has been among the most consistent players on Tour this season and has now made 22 cuts in a row dating back to 2013. His record at this event is also solid, with top-30 finishes in each of his three previous starts at TPC Deere Run.

Group 3: Billy Hurley III: The Navy vet didn't close things out at Greenbrier, but his tie for fourth was still good enough to punch his ticket to Royal Liverpool and marked his second straight top-10 result. He's playing some of the best golf of his career and now returns to a course where he tied for eighth in 2012 in his last appearance in the Quad Cities.

Group 4: Chad Campbell: Believe it or not, Campbell is the Tour's new leader in GIR percentage this season, finding the green more than 72 percent of the time. He tied for 15th here a year ago, his third top-15 finish at this event since 2008, and he tied for seventh last month at the Travelers Championship.

John Antonini

Group 1: Zach Johnson: You can pick Steve Stricker if you want, and who's to argue he's not the better choice. You can't go wrong with either player.  Johnson hasn't shot worse than 69 at TPC Deere Run since 2008, so for consistency's sake he gets the nod.

Group 2: Ben Martin: He had made seven straight cuts before missing out at the Greenbrier, which I attribute to the fact he had just qualified for his first British Open by finishing T-3 at the Quicken Loans National. That letdown notwithstanding, I expect him to continue his fine recent form at the JDC.

Group 3: Scott Langley: Like Stricker and Johnson, Langley's is a Midwesterner (from the Chicago suburb of Barrington, Ill.), and has been playing well recently. He made the cut at the U.S. Open and followed with a T-11 in the Travelers Championship and a T-26 last week at Greenbrier.

Group 4: Chad Campbell: A two-time runner-up at major championships who has fallen to 352nd on the world ranking, Campbell still has game on courses that suit his skill set. He has never missed the cut at the John Deere and had his first top-10 finish of the season a few weeks ago at Connecticut.