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Stricker Slam: The John Deere Classic preview
By Pete Pappas
GolfWRX Staff Writer
Steve Stricker’s bobblehead is going for $50 a pop on eBay. That’s more than any PGA Tour player bobblehead has sold for on eBay all season – really.
But put the brakes on calling this “Strickermania.” It’s not. Not yet at least.
Stricker will attempt to become just the fifth player in PGA Tour history to win the same tournament four consecutive times when he goes for the “Stricker Slam” this week at the 2012 John Deere Classic.
If Stricker manages to win he would join an exclusive club that includes Tom Morris Jr. (British Open), Walter Hagan (PGA Championship), Gene Sarazen (Miami Open), and Tiger Woods (Bay Hill Invitational and Buick Invitational).
A victory at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., would also give the 45 year-old his second title of the year — he kicked off the Tour season with a win at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Stricker comes in to the John Deere Classic as World’s No. 13th ranked player — the highest ranked player in the field.
Stricker’s TPC Deere “Run” has included a flawless performance, a spectacular performance, and even a purely magical one the past three tournaments.
In 2009, Stricker missed only 17 greens and salvaged par a field-leading 17 times (100 percent). He finished tied for ninth in total driving, sixth in proximity to the hole, and third on approach shots inside 125 yards.
Highlighted by an opening round bogey-free 11-under, Stricker was even more impressive the following year setting the TPC Deere Run course record in 2010 at 26-under.
And then last year on the 72nd hole needing birdie to win for the third consecutive year, Stricker’s miraculous 182-yard approach shot from the fairway bunker, over water, with the ball well below his feet somehow managed to land 25 feet from the hole on the fringe (this shot was voted No. 2 “Shot of the Year” by PGATour.com).
With ice in his veins Stricker called upon his silky-smooth putting to sink the long birdie putt and defeat a shocked and dismayed Kyle Stanley by one stroke. His 22-under finish for the round was also good enough for the second-best score in John Deere history.
Inside The Ropes
Eighteen of the World’s Top 20 ranked players are not playing TPC Deere Run this week. However, seven past major winners, five previous John Deere champions and 31 winners on Tour over the past two years — including Zach Johnson, Stanley, Carl Petterson, Nick Watney, Jonathan Byrd, Camilo Villegas, and Ben Crane should all give Stricker a formidable run for his money.
Last week’s Greenbrier Classic champion Ted Potter Jr. is hoping the momentum of his eagle-birdie finish to force a playoff carries over this week.
Z. Johnson is playing the John Deere for the 11th straight time, finishing third in this event last year. He is fifth in stroked gained putting and 16th in birdie average on Tour.
Byrd won at TPC Deere Run in 2007 and is playing well this season with five top-10 finishes (a career high). Byrd ranked T-2 in birdies last week at Greenbrier.
Villegas has just three top-25 finishes in his 17 starts this year. He’s coming off back-to-back missed cuts in his last two starts (AT&T National and Greenbrier).
Stanley is also struggling of late. Six missed cuts in his last 10 starts have dropped him from No. 1 in the FedExCup Standings down to 16th.
Plugged In Predictions – The Greek Syndicate
A Stricker win this week guarantees those eBay bobbleheads will be at least double in price. And yes I’m the one snatching them all up on eBay at that $50 “discount” price looking to turn a profit come Monday.
Stricker has a 65.33 stroke average here since 2009. And he’s 68-under his last 216 holes at TPC Deere Run. Four top-10s this year is nice, but it wouldn’t matter if he had none. Deere Run is Sticker’s house.
Groupings At A Glance
Steve Stricker, Camilo Villegas, Kyle Stanley
Jhonattan Vegas, Mark Wilson, Tim Clark
Zach Johnson, Nick Watney, Ted Potter, Jr.
Jonathan Byrd, K.J.Choi, Stewart Cink
For the fifth consecutive year the John Deere Classic will offer players bound for the British Open a direct charter flight to England. The all-first class 100-seat Boeing 767 is scheduled to leave immediately following the conclusion of the event. Upon arrival in England grounds transportation will immediately take the players and their traveling parties to Royal Lytham & St. Annes — site of this year’s Open Championship.
Television Coverage (EST)
Thursday and Friday: Golf Channel 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: CBS 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Radio Coverage (EST)
Thursday through Sunday: Sirius XM PGA Tour RADIO 12:00 – 6:00 p.m.
You can follow Pete on twitter @TheGreekGrind and GolfWRX @GolfWRX