John Deere Classic Tournament Preview

2021 John Deere Classic Tournament Preview: Everything You Need To Know About TPC Deere Run Before Tee Off

We’ve reached leg #2 of the Midwest Birdie Fest swing, as the Tour heads to Illinois for the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run for the first time since 2019 in a field so weak, only us golf degenerates could bear to watch. This event is always held one week before The Open Championship, and has therefore always been skipped by a majority of players in the field at The Open, in favor of the Scottish Open, which serves as a better tune up spot for the conditions they’ll come to see on the Open links. I’ve made a mess of this course on PGA 2K21, which is a factor of me being awful at adjusting for elevation changes & undulated fairways, as well as just being straight up very bad at that video game. The former will be the course’s best defense this week however, but even still, we should expect the winning score to once again push close to -20 despite the absence of any notable talent in the field.

With this being another second shot birdie fest likely to reward the hottest putters of the week, you can expect plenty of overlap from your Rocket Mortgage Classic player pools. The biggest difference this week will be a greater emphasis on Bent grass putting, Short Course scoring, and Course History, in addition to the same SG: Ball Striking, SG: P, BoB Gained, and SG: TOT – Easy Courses that we looked for last week. With that said, let’s dive in for a full breakdown of everything you can expect at TPC Deere Run this week.

TPC Deere Run Course Specs

  • Yards: 7,066
  • Par: 71 (4x 3’s / 11x 4’s / 3x 5’s)
  • Greens: Bent
  • Architect: D.D. Weibring
  • Historic Cut Line: -2 to -3
  • Comp Courses: Detroit Golf Club, TPC Craig Ranch, TPC River Highlands, TPC Twin Cities, Harbour Town
  • Past Winners: Dylan Frittelli (19), Michael Kim (18), Bryson DeChambeau (17), Ryan Moore (16), Jordan Spieth (15, 13)
  • Other Past Winners In The Field: Brian Harman (14), Zach Johnson (12), Steve Stricker (11, 10, 09)

If you have not won on Tour yet, this is the spot to do it. Four of the last five winners at the John Deere Classic have picked up their first career victory here. That list includes Dylan Frittelli, Michael Kim, Bryson DeChambeau, and Jordan Spieth. In fact, every John Deere Classic champion since 2009 has either been a first time winner, a repeat champion, or named Ryan Moore. Notable players (using the “notable” term loosely) in the field still seeking their first career win include Harold Varner III, Erik van Rooyen, Doc Redman, Hank Lebioda, and Doug Ghim.

TPC Deere Run is the site of the last tournament three-peat winner, where Steve Stricker went on a Tiger-esque run from 2009-2011 to win each year. Paul Casey had an opportunity this season to match that feat at the Valspar Championship, but alas, no one has been able to top that achievement since. Stricker’s continued to find success here in the past decade as well; in his 7 appearances at the John Deere Classic since his latest win in 2011, he’s never missed the cut, and has two T5 finishes to go along with another T11 and T10 in that span. The 54 year old Ryder Cup captain has actually put together a solid 2021 season, including a T4 at TPC Scottsdale for the WMPO and T13 at PGA National on another sub-7,200 yard track at the Honda Classic. Given how putrid the field is this week, Stricker is actually going to be worth a look in this renaissance year he’s having.

Despite all that dominance, Stricker still secedes #1 Course History honors to Zach Johnson. Johnson has one win here in 2015 to go along with two Runner Ups, a T3, and a T5. Since 2012, he has never missed a cut at the John Deere Classic in his 9 appearances, and leads the field historically at TPC Deere Run in SG: T2G, SG: BS, and SG: SG. Beyond Johnson, the list of players who have had multiple T20 finishes at this event over the last 5 contests also includes Johnson Wagner, Ryan Moore, Andrew Landry, Scott Stallings, Vaughn Taylor, Roger Sloan, Kyle Stanley, Sam Ryder, and Charles Howell III.

In terms of motivation, this event is an anomaly compared to the usual pre-Major tune up tracks. Players with their minds set on the Open Championship have already flown overseas to play in the Scottish Open this week, a links course which should serve as a nice simulation to the conditions at Royal St. George’s. So players who are in the field for The Open next week who have still decided to tee it up at TPC Deere Run are assuredly not using this round as a pure tune up, but rather trying to capitalize on stealing a win versus a weaker field. Playing the John Deere Classic is not a death sentence of jet lag/fatigue for The Open in the following week, however; in 2015, Zach Johnson followed up his T3 at this event with a win at The Open the very next week, and Jordan Spieth followed up his win that year at the John Deere Classic with a T4 at The Open. The list of players teeing it up this week who are also in the field at The Open includes Daniel Berger, Brian Harman, Zach Johnson, Erik van Rooyen, Sebastian Munoz, Kevin Na, Alex Noren, Lucas Glover, Chez Reavie, Byeong Hun An, and CT Pan.

In terms of comp courses this week, I am looking most closely at TPC River Highlands, a recently played track that is also (predominantly) Bent grass greens, sub-7,200 yards, typically yields winning scores in the high-teens, and has seen overlapping success from players like Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau, Brian Harman, Daniel Berger, and Russell Henley, amongst others. The list of Top 10 finishers at The Travelers Championship who are teeing it up this week at the John Deere Classic includes Kramer Hickok, Hank Lebioda, Brian Harman, Brice Garnett, and Beau Hossler.

TPC Deere Run had consistently played 7,257 yards year over year until 2019, where the tees were pushed up by ~200 yards to play 7,066 in total. Early indications show that they’ll be keeping those shortened tees once again in 2021, making Scoring on <7,200 Courses an important stat to factor in once again. The Top 10 players SG: T2G on <7,200 Courses L24 Rounds are Si Woo Kim, Daniel Berger, Harold Varner III, Russell Henley, Luke List, Cameron Champ, Kyle Stanley, Lucas Glover, Doug Ghim, and Zach Johnson.

Key Stats

  • Recent Form (SG: T2G)
  • Birdies or Better Gained (on <7,200 courses)
  • SG: APP / SG: BS
  • Good Drives Gained
  • Par 4: 400-450
  • SG: TOT (<7,200 Courses)
  • SG: TOT (Easy Courses)
  • SG: Putting (Bent) / SG: SG
  • Course History

Stats To Avoid

  • Prox 200+
  • Driving Distance

Compared to last week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, I’m going to be looking at SG: Ball Striking rather than just SG: APP as a standalone stat. This is not a course you can bomb & gouge, so SG: OTT becomes a bit more important, giving an advantage to players hitting out of the fairways to set up approaches for Birdie opportunities. Even still, SG: OTT is still of below average importance this week compared to Tour Average, so I’m once again looking at Good Drives Gained, which is the 13th highest indicator of success at the John Deere Classic. Six players in the field rate out Top 20 in both Ball Striking and Good Drives Gained coming in: Doug Ghim, Matthew NeSmith, Kyle Stanley, Daniel Berger, Hank Lebioda, and Kevin Streelman.

The stats I’m weighting most heavily in my model this week are SG: BS, BoB Gained, SG: T2G – Short Courses, John Deere Classic Course History, Good Drives Gained, and Weighted Total + Bent Putting. Just 7 players rate above average in each of these categories: Daniel Berger, Brian Harman, Kevin Streelman, Lucas Glover, Doc Redman, Adam Schenk, and Sebastian Munoz

The most notable callouts from the Correlation Charts this week are a bump in importance towards SG: SG, a bit of a rarity for a birdie fest, though more skewed towards Putting, and Fairways Gained, which jumps from the usual rank of 46th on average up to 24th this week. Conversely, P4 450-500 dips from 7th to 25th here, and Driving Distance fares inconsequential down at 43rd.

Top 10 Correlated Stats with SG: TOT
Top 10 Correlated Stats with SG: TOT at the John Deere Classic

Taking the Top 10 Correlated Stat categories for this week at the John Deere Classic, there are 14 players who rate out above average in all ten: Daniel Berger, Kevin Streelman, Seamus Power, Alex Noren, Lucas Glover, Pat Perez, Aaron Wise, Brandt Snedeker, Satoshi Kodaira, CT Pan, Steve Stricker, Ben Martin, Patton Kizzire, and Sungjae Im.

Spotlight: Brian Harman

With no major or WGC appearances, Brian Harman looks to advance to Atlanta  for Tour Championship | Golfweek

It’s slim pickings this week to find anyone to feel remotely confident in, but I’m going with old Parachute Pants Harman as the guy I’m leaning most heavily towards for OAD, and at what will surely be disgustingly low odds to bet. I gave a thought to Daniel Berger, but I’m waiting a week to play Berger in Sandwich for The Open.

As I mentioned earlier, this event either breeds first-time Tour winners, or repeat winners, so if I’m going to pay up at the top of the board, I’m looking for a guy like Brian Harman who has already closed the deal here in 2014, looking to join the company of the other repeat winners over the past decade, Zach Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Steve Stricker.

Brian Harman rates out #2 in my model this week, ranking Top 16 or better in every key stat I’m looking at, with the exception of SG: BS (37th) and Good Drives Gained (54th). He’s #1 SG: SG, #4 in Total Putting, #4 P4: 400-450, #7 in Easy Scoring Conditions, and #10 in BoB Gained.

Harman is a stud on short courses, ranking #6 SG: TOT on them over the last T24 rounds, and that’s highlighted by his best finishes this season coming on short track events like The AmEx (T8), THE PLAYERS (T3), RBC Heritage (T13), and my #1 comp event for this week, The Travelers (T5). Statistically, 2021 has been by far the best season of the 2-time Tour winner’s career. He’s averaging 1.49 Strokes Gained per round this year, with his previous best coming in 2017 at 0.89 Strokes Gained per round on average. It only seems right that he not go winless in the best statistical year of his career, and with 8 T20s to go along with 1 MC in 13 starts in 2021, he’s no stranger to contending into Sunday. Versus this weak of a field, this will be Harman’s best opportunity of the year to convert his first victory on Tour since the Wells Fargo in 2017.

What To Look Out For at the 2021 John Deere Classic

As is the case with most easy, short, second shot courses, finding success here has been repeatable for course horse veterans like Zach Johnson, Russell Henley, Brian Harman, and Steve Stricker, so expect them to hang around throughout the week once again. It’s a little bizarre to see Si Woo Kim and Sungjae Im in the field at a relatively meaningless event like this, considering their stance on wanting to put themselves in the best position to win a medal at the Olympics and exempt themselves from military obligations, so it’ll be interesting to see if they simply use this as a tune up, or if they will be grinding it out to win as two of the most talented players in this field. Beyond that, it’s tough to really pull any storylines out of this week’s event. A bad player is probably going to win, and history shows there’s a good chance it will be a first-time winner who catches a hot putter, so GOOD LUCK trying to figure out who that’s going to be with any confidence.

With all the course fit profiles in mind this week, I’m leaning early towards the below player pool, broken out by projected pricing/odds tier.

This week, I’m putting a premium on SG: BS, Birdies or Better Gained (on Short Courses), and Recent + Bent Putting, followed by a steady mix of SG: T2G on Short Courses, JDC Course History, Good Drives Gained, SG: TOT on Easy Courses, SG: SG, and Par 4 400-450 Scoring. I think regardless of what you feed into your model, Daniel Berger will pop #1, and that’s no different here. The rest of my model’s Top 10 is rounded out by Brian Harman, Kevin Streelman, Lucas Glover, Russell Henley, Sungjae Im, Jhonattan Vegas, Doc Redman, Si Woo Kim, and Adam Schenk.