PGA Tour Picks: 51st John Deere Classic

By TOM LaMARRE

The 51st John Deere Classic will be played beginning Thursday at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., and for the first time in several years it won’t be held one week before the Open Championship, which is the final major of the season.

Usually, players who also are competing in the oldest championship in the world would climb on a plane soon after the final putt dropped in the John Deere for the charter flight to the United Kingdom, and often there would be players onboard who only earned their spots in the field that day.

This year, they will at least have the opportunity to go home and make normal preparations because the 150th Open Championship won’t be played until July 14-17 on the famed Old Course at St. Andrews Links in Scotland, known as “The Home of Golf.”

Three players who finish in the top 10 of the John Deere Classic this week and have not yet earned positions in the Open will receive exemptions into the field at St. Andrews.

“We are very excited to be able to offer players three opportunities to qualify for the Open Championship, especially the historic 150th edition at St. Andrews, the home of golf,” said Clair Peterson, executive director of the John Deere Classic. “We have had a very positive relationship with the R&A for nearly two decades and we’re very appreciative of receiving three exemptions this year.”

No exemptions were offered to players in the John Deere Classic last year because of complications surrounding the Coronavirus Pandemic. John Deere Classic champions who have received exemptions to the Open in the past include Jordan Spieth in 2013 and Bryson DeChambeau in 2017.

Lucas Glover (pictured), the 2009 U.S. Open champion, came from four shots behind in the final round last year by shooting seven-under-par to claim his fourth PGA Tour victory by two strokes over Ryan Moore and Kevin Na in the John Deere Classic.

The John Deere Classic will be played opposite the second event of the controversial new LIV Golf Tour, which will be held at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Ore., and feature four more PGA Tour stars—DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed and Abraham Ancer of Mexico.

Among those who played in the first LIV event in London and have been banned by the PGA Tour are Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, Sergio Garcia of Spain, Lee Westwood of England, Kevin Na, Talor Gooch, Branden Grace of South Africa, Matt Jones of Australia, Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, Ian Poulter of England, Hudson Swafford and Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, who won the LIV opener.

The 42-year-old Glover said he wasn’t tempted by the large bonuses being offered by the Saudi-backed tour.

“I’m playing the PGA Tour and I like it,” said Glover, whose victory in the John Deere last year was his first since the 2011 Wells Fargo Championship. “I’m not judging anybody. I just choose to support the PGA Tour.

“ … Making the turn (in the John Deere last year), I took a long look at the scoreboard and noticed nobody was really going too low. I just said, ‘There’s a lot of birdie holes on the back.’ It’s just the mindset of what we do to stay aggressive and try to post a number.”

That’s what he did and it turned out to be enough.

Among those joining Glover in the John Deere Classic field are Daniel Berger, Jason Day of Australia, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Cameron Champ, Adam Hadwin of Canada, Sahith Theegala, Martin Laird of Scotland, Charles Howell III, J.T. Poston, Chez Reavie, Bill Haas, Rory Sabbatini of South Africa, Maverick McNealy and Steve Stricker, who has won the tournament a record three times along with D.A. Weibring.

They’re all looking toward Scotland, not Saudi Arabia.

BEST BETS

1. Daniel Berger, United States – A four-time winner on the PGA Tour, including the AT&T Pebble Beach last year, Berger has posted seven finishes in the top 10 this season, including a tie for fifth in the Memorial earlier this month. He is making his fourth start in the John Deere Classic, with his best result a tie for fifth in 2017, when he shot 63 in the third round.

2. Adam Hadwin, Canada – Coming off a tie for seventh in the U.S. Open after an opening 66, Hadwin has five top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this season. His only PGA Tour victory came in the 2017 Valspar and he also won twice on the Korn Ferry Tour and twice on the PGA Tour Canada. Makes third start in the John Deere, tying for eighth in 2016 and tying for 18 in 2015.

3. Webb Simpson, United States – The 2012 U.S. Open and 2018 Players champion was in the hunt most of the way last week in the Travelers after starting 64-69-66, but closed with a 71 and slid to a tie for 14th. It was his fourth top-25 this season, including a tie for 20th in the PGA Championship. He is making his third start in the John Deere, with his best a tie for 21st in 2010.

4. Christiaan Bezuidenhout, South Africa – A seven-time winner in his professional career, Bezuidenhout is playing his rookie season on the PGA Tour at the age of 28. He finished seventh in the Arnold Palmer Invitational last year and has seven finishes in the top 25 this season, including a tie for 12th in the AT&T Byron Nelson. He is making his debut in the John Deere.

5. Sahith Theegala, United States – The rookie from Pepperdine seemed headed for his first PGA Tour victory last week before two miscues on the final hole left him one shot back in a tie for second in the Travelers. Theegala has five top-10 results this season, including a tie for third in Phoenix and a tie for fifth in the Memorial. He is making his first start in the John Deere.

6. Brendon Todd, United States – Has won three times on the PGA Tour, including at Mayakoba and in Bermuda two years ago, and also claimed two victories on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour. Todd was third in the Charles Schwab and tied for eighth in the Texas Open among seven top-25 finishes this season. Best result in the John Deere was a tie for 18th in 2019.

7. Chez Reavie, United States – Coming off a tie for eighth in the Travelers Championship after posting for scores in the 60s, Reavie also tied for 10th in the Genesis, tied for 13th in Mexico and tied for 15th in the Wells Fargo this season. He’s making his 10th start in the John Deere and his best results were a tie for fifth in 2011, a tie for 15th in 2013 and a tie for 18th in last season.

8. Lucas Glover, United States – The defending champion in the John Deere, which he has played 12 times, claimed his fourth PGA Tour victory in the event last year after tying for 10th in 2019, tying for 11th in 2007 and tying for 15th in 2013. Glover closed with a 64 to win by two shots. His best this season was a tie for fifth in the Sony Open and he tied for 23rd in PGA.

9. Jason Day, Australia – A 12-time winner on the PGA Tour, including the 2015 PGA and the 2016 Players, Day has been battling a back injury in recent seasons but tied for third in the Farmers and tied for 15th in the Travelers recently after opening with a 63. He is playing in the John Deere Classic for the sixth time and his best finishes were ties for 15th in 2009 and 2010.

10. Dylan Frittelli, South Africa – Claimed his only PGA Tour victory and one of five as a pro in the 2019 John Deere Classic by two strokes over Russell Henley by closing with a 64, his fourth round in the 60s. The event was not played in 2020 because of Covid-19 and he missed the cut by one at 69-71 last year. Frittelli’s best this season was a tie for eighth in Texas Open.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Cameron Champ, United States; Adam Svensson, Canada; Denny McCarthy, United States; Charles Howell III, United States; Cam Davis, Australia; J.T. Poston, United States; Martin Laird, Scotland; Scott Stallings, United States; Steve Stricker, United States; Zach Johnson, United States.

SLEEPERS

1. Nick Hardy, United States – Finished in a T-8 last week in the Travelers after a T-14 in the U.S. Open a week earlier. Opened and closed with 66s to T-43 in the 2018 John Deere.

2. Davis Riley, United States – Two-time winner on the Korn Ferry Tour last season lost to Sam Burns in a playoff at Valspar, was T-4 in Charles Schwab and fifth in Mexico Open this season.

3. Taylor Pendrith, Canada – Twice a winner on PGA Tour Canada in 2019, Pendrith has finished T-5 in Bermuda, T-13 in Players Championship and T-16 in the Farmers this season.

4. Matthias Schwab, Austria – PGA Tour rookie, who won five times as an amateur, finished T-7 in the Honda Classic and the Puerto Rico Open, and T-8 in the Valero Texas Open this season.

5. Hayden Buckley, United States – Winner on the Korn Ferry Tour last season and PGA Tour Canada in 2019 was T-4 at Sanderson Farms, T-8 in Shriners and T-12 in Sony Open this season.

For first-round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html

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