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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 John Deere Classic

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The final stop before the third major of the year takes us to Silvis, Illinois, for the John Deere Classic. Just like last week at the Greenbrier, this week’s course will offer up a lot of birdie opportunities for players. You can expect the winning score to be in the high teens or even further under par.

TPC Deere Run is a par-71 and measures 7,268 yards. The fairways are historically some of the easiest to hit on the PGA Tour, and with lots of short-to-medium length par-4s, it will be vital for players to have their wedge game in perfect shape for this week’s challenge. Birdie-or-Better Percentage, Approach Play, and form on the greens will all be areas to focus on this week.

Last year, Bryson DeChambeau shot a scintillating final-round 65 to post a total of 18-under par and take the title by one stroke over Patrick Rodgers.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Francesco Molinari 10/1
  • Bryson DeChambeau 10/1
  • Zach Johnson 12/1
  • Joaquin Niemann 16/1
  • Ryan Moore 16/1
  • Steve Stricker 20/1
  • Chesson Hadley 22/1

This week, Zach Johnson (12/1, DK Price $11,200) is the definition of a horse for the course. Johnson has an incredible record at TPC Deere Run, and it’s no surprise why — he has always been one of the best wedge players and putters on Tour. Johnson is 9/9 in cuts made at TPC Deere Run. He has finished in the top-5 six times, which includes a victory back in 2012.

Although Johnson’s form in 2018 has been patchy, there are real signs that his iron play is in excellent shape for the test this week. The American has gained a total of 10.8 strokes over the field for his approach shots in his last three events, and over his previous 24 rounds, Johnson is ranked third in this field for Proximity to the Hole. Johnson’s putting has also been excellent over his past two events, gaining more than five strokes combined over the field on the greens. With a scoring average of 66.89 around TPC Deere Run and his approach play and putting seemingly on point, take Zach Johnson to build your lineups. A high finish for Johnson is almost a certainty on his home course.

Playing one of the favorites ultimately adds greater importance to finding value further down the board, and Joel Dahmen (80/1, DK Price $7,600) screams value this week. Dahmen has been in superb form as of late with five top-25 finishes in his last seven outings. He tied for fifth last week at the Greenbrier, and most of his good work was done with his irons, which have been razor sharp all year. Dahmen ranks first in this week’s field for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, and fifth for Ball Striking over his previous 24 rounds. Dahmen’s stellar iron play has seen a surge for the rest of his game, as he sits sixth in Strokes Gained-Total over the same period.

There are plenty of signs that TPC Deere Run could be an excellent fit for Dahmen, too. Over his previous 24 rounds, Dahmen is ranked fourth in the field for approach shots measuring between 100-125 yards. He’s also 12th in the field for approach shots between 125-150 yards. With wedge play being so important at TPC Deere Run, all signs point to Dahmen’s game being in perfect shape to attack the course.

Making birdies will be the order of the day in Illinois, and over his past 12 rounds, Dahmen has excelled in this department. In his last three events, Dahmen sits fifth in the field for Birdies or Better Gained and second for Eagles Gained. At a price of just $7,600, Dahmen makes a perfect accompaniment to Johnson, and he is my value play for the week.

Another man coming off a top-5 finish at the Greenbrier, Harold Varner III (110/1, DK Price $7,400), is priced low enough to interest me this week. The way in which Varner III performed last week, along with his excellent iron play, leads me to believe he can do the same again this week. Varner III was fifth in last week’s field for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, and it was his second-successive week where he flushed his irons, ranking 11th in the same statistic at the Quicken Loans National.

Varner III sits sixth in this field for Birdie or Better Percentage over his last two events, and he is ranked 11th in proximity over the same period. A streaky player and whose immediate form signals that there may be another big week in store for the likable American in Illinois this week, Varner III represents excellent value at a low priced salary.

Recommended Plays

  • Zach Johnson 12/1, DK Price $11,200
  • Joel Dahmen 80/1, DK Price $7,600
  • Harold Varner III 110/1, DK Price $7,400
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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giancarlomag

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: “Sweetens Cove Golf Club” in South Pittsburg, Tennessee

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here! 

Today’s Hidden Gem is our first ever double submission! That’s right, two GolfWRX members have now submitted Sweetens Cove Golf Club in South Pittsburg, Tennessee as their favorite Hidden Gem golf course. Here’s what they both had to say below.

bogey pro

“It’s a 9 hole course that is all about the golf.  It doesn’t have a fancy club house.  It’s minimalist and pure golf.  It’s always in excellent shape and very fun.  It is a real treat to play and people come from all over to play it.  I’ve never heard a bad word about it.  Its very similar to a links style course with rolling fairways, waste bunkers, large fast undulating greens.  From the website, it is ranked 50th in Modern Course and ranked #1 course in Tennessee for the last 3 years.”

FairwayFred

“While starting to get too much publicity to be considered a hidden gem it’s hard to argue that Sweetens Cove isn’t one of the best golf values in the country.  For $40 peak season you can play 18 at the #1 ranked course you can play in TN and Golf Weeks 50th ranked modern course.  What Sweetens lack in holes (its a 9 hole course) it more than makes up for with amazing variety, incredible green complexes, firm and fast turf and in my opinion the best set of artistic bunkers I’ve ever seen anywhere.  Rob Collins the principal architect (and now the head of the management team) built the course by hand with his partner Tad King.  Rob has OVER 700 days on site working on the build.  That is almost unheard of in golf course architecture and construction and is the main reason why all the little details at Sweetens are so good.  The main thing at Sweetens is playing golf there is about FUN which is not always the case.  Definitely one to seek out regardless of budget.”

According to the Sweetens Cove website, course rates range from $25 to $65 depending on the day of the week, time of the year and time of day. Also, they have a $100 play-all-day rate (with a cart) and a $60 walk all day rate. Sweetens Cove is located approximately 25 minutes from downtown Chattanooga.

Know a local course that you can play for under $50 that deserves recognition? Submit your hidden gem here

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Podcasts

The Cart Barn (Ep. 2): “How many hours does a club pro really work per week?”

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Do club pros really work as much as they say? Assistant pro Steve Westphal and GolfWRX Editor Andrew Tursky discuss how many hours go into working in the industry. They also discuss course architecture, course architects and their favorite golf courses.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Want to be an elite junior golfer? Play a shorter and easier home course

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Let’s start with a thought experiment: You’re building a long-term plan with your parents to become a world-class golfer. You create a list. How important is being a member of a nice golf course? Is it worth the money to join somewhere swanky, or will the local muni do?

If you are like most junior golfers I have spoken to, facilities matter, and you want to be a member of that 7400-yard course with perfect greens. Based on this preference, I wanted to look at the data; what type of courses produce PGA Tour players? What can we learn from them? With the help of many of my friends in golf, I started to compile a list of PGA Tour players and their home golf courses when they were between 12-16 years old.

Here is what I came up with

  • Justin Thomas – Harmony Landing: 6,645 (130 course rating)
  • Justin Rose – North Hants: 6,250
  • Brooks Koepka – Bear Lakes: 7,439 (141)
  • Jordan Spieth – Brookhaven: 6,820 (133)
  • Rory McIlroy – Hollywood Golf Club: 6,056
  • Bubba Watson – Tanglewood Golf Club: 6,302 (124)
  • Phil Mickelson – Stardust: 6,550 (126)
  • Zach Johnson – Elmhurst: 6,500 (128)
  • Webb Simpson – Raleigh Golf: 6,869 (135)
  • Bryson DeChambeau – Dragon Fly: 7,273 (135)
  • Ryan Moore – The Classic: 6,903 (134)
  • Tiger Woods – Navy Golf Course: 6,780 (129)
  • Ollie Sciednerjans – Bentwater: 6,741 (142)
  • Xander Schauffele – Bernardo Heights: 6,679 (131)
  • Chez Reavie – Dobson Ranch: 6,630 (121)
  • Patrick Cantlay – Virginia Country Club: 6,633 (130)
  • Jason Dufner – Weston Hills: 7,060 (129)
  • Adam Hadwin – Morgan Creek: 6,948 (136)
  • Emiliano Grillio -Chaco Golf Club: 6,749 (130)
  • Charles Howell III – Augusta Country Club: 7,125 (136)
  • Julian Suri – South Hampton: 7,028 (138)
  • Aaron Wise – Eagle Glen: 6,869 (139)
  • Peter Uihlein – IMG Academy: 6,842 (136)
  • Brandon Stone – Centurion: 6,830 (131)

Starting to notice something? Based on the data of these 24 PGA Tour players, their average home course has a yardage of 6,772 and slope of 132. Wowzers! Can’t believe it? It makes perfect sense: To be competitive in golf, you must shoot under par. Shooting under par, like riding a bike, or walking, or writing, is a skill. It is developed through a combination of repetition and feedback.

Easier golf courses allow players the opportunity to shoot lower scores and build confidence. Over time, these skills become habit. When players enter tournaments, it is more likely they shoot under par. Breaking par at your home golf course is only the first step towards becoming an elite junior golfer. The data suggests that players (both boys and girls) need to average approximately 69 per round to win on the AJGA — on 6,800-yard courses for boys and just under 6,000 yards for girls.

No major championship venue has ever had a junior member go on to win, or even play, the PGA Tour. That’s right: the PGA Tour is not filled with junior members from Augusta National. Why? Because while playing Shinnecock Hills is an absolute treat, the course is extremely difficult, and 74 is a great score. Junior members at such courses create habits of shooting 74, and when they enter tournaments, like the AJGA, in general, they get beat.

So where should you be a member if you are a junior golfer with aspirations of college golf or beyond? Great question. In an ideal world the course would have the following:

  1. Unlimited access to a facility that is approximately 6,700 yards long with a slope of about 130. The goal on this golf course is to break par often and work towards a handicap of +3 by your 18th birthday.
  2. Somewhere with other talented players. Although, it would be great if they are other juniors, more importantly you want players of about the same skill who will offer you a competitive match a couple times a week.

As always, if you have any feedback on this article or a story idea, please feel free to reach out to me! Always love hearing from people and helping them connect with schools that meet their academic, athletic, social and financial needs!

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