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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: Boulder Creek Golf Club in Streetsboro, Ohio

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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 of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member JimGantz, who takes us to Boulder Creek Golf Club in Streetsboro, Ohio. Just 30 minutes from downtown Cleveland, Boulder Creek features over 100 feet of elevation changes, and when you look at the photos of the course, it’s easy to see why this track landed in our hidden gem thread. JimGantz gives us a concise description of the course, praising it for its nice blend of different hole types.

“Conditions are always top notch. Fluffy bunkers, thick-ish rough.  Staff are super friendly. Good mix of long and short holes which is something I like. I’m not a huge fan of playing a course where every par 3 is over 200yds. This track mixes it up.”

According to Boulder Creek Golf Club’s website, 18 holes with a cart from Monday-Thursday will set you back $40, while to play on the weekend costs $50. Seniors can play the course for as little as $25 during the week.

@BoulderCreekOH

@amgolferblog

@troymezz

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Flightscope’s Alex Trujillo on why all golfers need shot data technology

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In this episode of the GearDive, Johnny chats with Alex Trujillo Sr. Sales Manager for Flightscope about understanding data, how information can make sense to your average golfer, why everyone should utilize data, and the downside of too much data.

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

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Opinion & Analysis

An ode to Lee Westwood

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Lee Westwood secured his 24th European Tour victory last week in South Africa, ending a winless streak that lasted over three years, and showing once again the resiliency that has proven to be a cornerstone in his potentially Hall of Fame career. The victory brought an emotional Westwood to tears as he proved that perhaps, at 45 years old, he should not be counted out just yet. This was his third time hoisting the Nedbank Golf Challenge trophy, and Westwood surmised that he “still got it, I guess.”

Indeed, he does, beating out a solid field that included the likes of Rory McIlroy, a hot Sergio Garcia, and Louis Oosthuizen.

Westwood’s career is characterized by a sort of blue collar style of golf. Even in his younger days he was never the longest off the tee, he doesn’t have the smoothest or most beautiful swing, his short game is at times questionable, and he has often been plagued by an inconsistent flat stick. Westwood’s strength has been his ball striking. His recognizable and repeatable quick dip into the ball is usually followed by a precisely and purely struck shot executed just as he envisioned it, a move which he has used to claim over 40 professional wins.

After breaking onto the scene with his first European Tour win in 1996, Westwood was a mainstay in the top 25 of the Official World Golf Rankings from ’97 to much of 2001, but after a promising start, he plummeted to as low as 266th in the world in 2003, just when he should have been entering his prime. He rebuilt his game and scaled the world rankings once again, this time joining elite company in reaching the coveted top spot in golf in 2010 and again in 2011, for a total of 22 weeks. This comeback of sorts is rare in golf, as many players who lose their form never quite recapture the magic they once had. The longevity of Westwood’s career speaks to his fighting spirit and belief in himself, even through the disappointment that golf often thrusts upon its participants.

Westwood’s three runner up finishes in majors hardly paints the picture of his 80 attempts on golf’s grandest stage. He has 11 top fives and nine top threes, all of which are made more heartbreaking by the fact that the ultimate goal remained elusive for the Englishman. He barely missed out on two of the most famous playoffs in major championship history: Tiger Woods edging out Rocco Mediate in maybe the most dramatic U.S. Open ever in 2008, and Bubba Watson’s heroic hook shot from the trees at Augusta to beat Oosthuizen in 2010. These two near misses seem to serve as an unfortunate microcosm for Westwood’s major championship career in that he played a lot of great golf, was often in the mix on Sunday, but ultimately failed to grab a piece of history.

Westwood plays most of his golf overseas, and his relative quietness on the PGA Tour likely contributes to his under appreciation in the United States, as he has just two wins to his credit, one in ’98 and another in 2010. While much focus will always be directed toward his missing major victory, Westwood’s resume is world class, including nine Ryder Cups and a superb singles and team record, three European Tour Golfer of the Year awards in ’98, ‘00, and ‘09, and the all time leading money winner on the European Tour.

In Westwood’s case, it is important not to confuse missed opportunities with failure. His career will finish with many “what-ifs,” but that should not take away from the greatness of it. With a quirky swing and at times a balky putter, Westwood is nonetheless absolutely an all-timer and class act who should be a household name in discussing the last two decades of professional golf.

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