The John Deere Classic has been a fixture on the PGA Tour for over 40 years but tournament organisers had to do something about the strength of the field in 2008 as too many players were unwilling to play in America the week before the Open Championship. So, indicative of the wealth in the sport these days, they decided to charter a transatlantic flight which leaves on Sunday evening immediately following the tournament’s conclusion. There are still players in the field this week looking to book a spot on that flight as there are qualification places up for grabs and a great tournament looks in store.
The 7,268 yard, par-71 TPC Deere Run course is statistically one of the easiest courses on the PGA Tour. Five of the last six tournaments were won by players who shot 20 under par or better and low scoring is to be expected once again this week. This is a course that can be overpowered even by players who possess less than average distance off the tee. Both Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker, who make more of their accuracy and short game than their distance, have excellent records here. They will both feel they are set for another good week but it is Johnson who appeals most.
The 39-year-old absolutely loves this place. He won the tournament in 2012 and has finished second three times. He’s 45th on the FedEx Cup rankings this season having secured six top 10 finishes, although that’s as good as it’s got. This is as good an opportunity as he’ll get to make sure he wins a PGA Tour event for the fourth season running and Coral’s 11/1 is very good value about his chances. He will hit the majority of greens and as long as he putts well – as he usually does – Johnson will take some stopping.
A less familiar name, Tony Finau is 38th in the FedEx Cup standings this year but he’s yet to place in the top three of any PGA Tour event. That looks set to change in the not too distant future. He ranks seventh for driving distance and although a lack of power hasn’t held previous winners back before, he could put himself in some brilliant positions around TPC Deere Run and shoot lower scores than most. Finau ranks 14th in terms of birdie percentage which may well be enough to power him to the top of the leaderboard and record that first win at 45/1 with Coral.
Retief Goosen is one of the most decorated players in the field this week. The South African has 43 professional wins, including two Major championships. It looked for a while as though the game had lost the 46-year-old but he’s made a comeback over the past year or so. He finished third in his first PGA Tour event of the season but missed the cut in his last two events. Goosen has as much experience as any of his competitors this week and the easy golf course will give him a chance to win his first event on Tour since 2009. Goosen isn’t much fancied but you can’t write him off at odds of 125/1 with Coral.