Stat attack!: John Deere Classic preview


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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