John Deere Classic Preview, Picks & Analysis
THE John Deere Classic is notable for a couple of things. In 2013 it was the tournament that announced the arrival of a teenage Jordan Spieth, as the young American won for the first time. And last year it was the event at which Bryson DeChambeau proved to the world that he knew what he was doing with his unorthodox approach to the game of golf .
It is also an event where b bombers do not tend to prevail, as a list of recent winners proves. It was won in 2011 by Steve Stricker (who also won in 2010), in 2012 by Zach Johnson, in 2013 and 2015 by Spieth, in 2016 by Moore and last year by DeChambeau, who is the only one of that group who could possibly be described as a big hitter.
The rest are all shotmakers who depend on the accuracy of their irons and their touch on the the greens to win golf tournaments. The John Deere Classic also takes on further significance because it is the final event on the PGA Tour before The Open Championship and it offers four qualifying spots for players who have not already made it to Carnoustie.
After his victory 12 months ago, which he concluded with a birdie on the 72nd hole, DeChambeau was quick to defend his approach. “There has been a lot of talk,” DeChambeau said of the doubters. “This is vindication I think. It's definitely nice to have me win under such conditions.”
Uniquely among tour professionals, the shafts in his irons are all the same length and his swing is, erm, idiosyncratic, to say the least.
“I just throw it to the side and say, don't even worry about it,” he says. “You're going down the road you've chosen and you're comfortable with it, and you know it's going to in the end be the right thing.
“I try to understand every single variable in this whole game of golf,” he says. “It's very, very difficult. But as time goes on, the more you can understand the variables the more consistent you can become just by understanding them. That's what we've tried to accomplish.” And the truth is that the 24-year-old is fast becoming one of the most consistent players on tour.
“In his prime, Tiger figured it out, how to hit certain wedge shots into certain flags with a certain spin, certain trajectory. He just knew it. He could do it with his hands. He trained his hands. It was unbelievable,” DeChambeau adds. “I've always wanted to try and accomplish that, but I just go about it in a very methodical, scientific method research kind of a way.”
It is becoming increasingly difficult to argue with him. He has only missed one cut all season. He won The Memorial, has a second and a third place to his credit, seven top 10s and 10 top-25 finishes. It is quite a record. He has already won more than $4m in prize money, is a shoo-in for the Ryder Cup and an increasing number of people are beginning to tip him as a certain major winner.
As he prepares to defend the Claret Jug, Spieth has decided to give the event a miss this year. Most of the other elite players on the PGA Tour are doing the same thing, preferring to fly to Scotland to prepare for Carnoustie, but there is still a decent field.
Stricker will be back and it would be a foolish person who would write off his chances. He mixes his time between the PGA and Champions Tour and doesn’t play a huge amount these days but it keeps him fresh and he is still a brilliant iron player and one of the best putters in the business. He also loves this event, so don’t be surprised to see him in the mix again on Sunday.
Surprisingly, Italy’s Francesco Molinari, fresh from his first victory on American soil, is in the field. He is having the season of his life, having also won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and finished second at the Italian Open. There have always been concerns about Molinari’s putting stroke but the thing is that he hits to many iron shots so close that he is able to get away with it. He is full of confidence right now and it would come as little surprise if he were to win again this week.
To Win: Bryson DeChambeau. He does it his way
Each Way: Francesco Molinari. Full of confidence
Each Way: Patton Kizzire. Looking to find early-season brilliance
Bryson DeChambeau. Let’s face it, it works!
Francesco Molinari. Now a world-class player
Patton Kizzire. Glorious rhythm
Zach Johnson. Always a danger on a course like this
Matt Jones. Beautiful golf swing
Nick Watney. Back to full fitness
Brandt Snedeker. Still looking to rediscover his best
Sam Ryder. Has come close a couple of times
Kyle Stanley. Looking for a big week
Aaron Wise. Terrific American rookie
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