John Deere Classic Preview, Picks & Analysis
WHEN the John Deere Classic was last played at TPC Deere Run two years ago, Dylan Frittelli was the surprise winner. The South African fired a seven-under 64 to claim a two-shot victory and secure his maiden PGA Tour win. He was playing his first full season on the PGA Tour after winning two European Tour titles in 2017 and finished on 21-under 263 at TPC Deere Run in Illinois to foil the late charge of Russell Henley. The victory also saw him earn the final qualifying berth for The Open at Royal Portrush. The tournament was one of those that fell victim to the pandemic in 2020.
The world No 133 started the day in a share of fifth place, two behind joint-overnight leaders Cameron Tringale and Andrew Landry, and he began his round in style with a birdie at the first after hitting his second shot to four feet from a fairway bunker.
He followed that up with birdies at the second and third before adding another at the eighth thanks to more excellent iron play. Frittelli's back nine kicked off with a chip in from just off the green for a birdie at the 10th and he then holed a 20-footer for a birdie at the 11th to take charge of the tournament on 20 under.
With Henley already in the clubhouse on 19 under, Frittelli kept his nerve over the closing stretch, adding another birdie at the 17th, as he completed the week with only one bogey which came at the first on Friday.
"That was a few less than I was expecting but I'm really happy with that score," Frittelli said. "I just tried to get off to a good start and obviously those three birdies helped a lot and settled the nerves.
"I knew I was a good player. I knew I've been in the top 50 in the world, but to win out here and to do it convincingly on Sunday is crucial. I've had a few bad weekends the last few weeks and this one tastes really sweet."
American Henley put the pressure on the later starters with a tournament-best 10-under 61, which featured four birdies on the front nine and six on the inward half, but he eventually came up two short of victory.
Landry claimed third place on 18 under after holing a 17-foot birdie putt on the last for a 69, while Collin Morikawa, 22, continued his fine run of form with a closing 66 to share fourth place with Chris Stroud (67) on 17 under. Charles Howell III, Vaughn Taylor, Nick Watney and Adam Schenk were all a shot further back.
Norway's Viktor Hovland was another strong finisher with a 64 which lifted him to 14 under and a tie for 16th with Tringale, who slipped down the field with a disappointing 73, which included five bogeys, as he remains without a win after playing in 261 events.
Scotland's Martin Laird made it back-to-back 70s over the weekend as he ended up in a tie for 37th on 10 under, while Englishman Luke Donald signed off with a 71 to tie for 56th place on seven under.
Golfers who have made an early commitment this year included 2014 winner Brian Harman, 2017 runner-up Patrick Rogers, Lucas Glover, Doug Ghim, Charley Hoffman, Chez Reavie, Troy Merritt, Aaron Wise, Sungjae Im, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Jhonattan Vegas and Fabian Gomez. Past champions in the field include three-time winner Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson, Jonathan Byrd, Michael Kim, Ryan Moore and Sean O’Hair.
Keep an eye on Mito Pereira. You may not have heard of him, but you will do. He has been promoted to the PGA Tour after winning three times on the Korn Ferry Tour.
It was won in 2015 by Jordan Spieth, in 2016 by Ryan Moore, in 2017 by Bryson DeChambeau, in 2018 by Michael Kim and in 2019 by South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli.
TPC Deere Run was designed by DA Weibring, who describes it thus: “It has all the things I think you’d like to have in a golf course. There are elevation changes, great views and scenery, hardwood trees. You have the Rock River complemented with small ponds and deep ravines… and best of all, there’s no real estate. What’s more, the natural features of the former Arabian horse farm high above the Rock River Valley have not been compromised.” It measures 7,258 yards and the course record is 59, set by Paul Goydos back in 2010.
Russell Henley has missed five cuts this season but there have also been some sparkling performances, including a third at the CJ Cup and Honda Classic and fourth at the ZoZo championship. His recent form has been hugely encouraging, with top-20 finishes at both the US Open and Travelers Championship.
Russell Henley. Heading in the right direction
Players to Follow:
Russell Henley. Ready for a victory
Brian Harman. Solid, consistent performer
Sungjae Im. Nobody plays more tournaments
Mito Pereira. One for the future
Aaron Wise. Young American looking for a return to the winner’s circle
Dylan Frittelli. Has struggled since his win here
Steve Stricker. Still a formidable competitor
Zach Johnson. Has a decent record here
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