One of the sneaky fun events of the season goes down this week at TPC Deere Run with the 2019 John Deere Classic, which will precede the 2019 Open Championship. I doubt you can find me two more contrasting locales than Silvis, Illinois, and Portrush, Northern Ireland, yet they will play host to two straight weeks of PGA Tour competition.
Let's take a look at this week's contest.
What: John Deere Classic | When: July 11-14
Where: TPC Deere Run -- Silvis, Illinois
Ranking the field (odds)
- Viktor Hovland (18-1): This seems insane, and possibly is, but he might be the best player in the field.
- Joaquin Niemann (20-1): He's the hottest player in the world nobody is talking about.
- Charles Howell III (25-1): One of the best historical players at this course.
- Collin Morikawa (20-1): Hovland Lite (and that's a compliment).
- Sungjae Im (20-1): This is his 31st (!) event. He's humming along for 40 this season -- forty events!
- Zach Johnson (25-1): He could fall out of the top 1,000 in the world, and he'd still be in my top 10 here.
- Kevin Streelman (25-1): Hasn't missed a cut since the Valspar Championship in March.
- Nate Lashley (60-1): Not a reactionary pick. He's in the top 40 in strokes gained overall this season.
- Brian Harman (25-1): Not his best season, but he went T8 at the Travelers Championship and has won here.
- Ryan Moore (30-1): Apropos of nothing, but Moore has a top-three finish in at least one worldwide start in 14 of the last 15 years.
Field strength -- D+: Look, you're not going to get any anti-Hovland sentiment from me, but when it's debatable that he's your best player in the field, then it's just not the greatest field. The Scottish Open is stealing a little star power with Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas this week, too.
Three things to know
1. Last Open spot: There is one final Open qualifying spot for the top finisher in this field who is not already in The Open Championship (and finishes in the top five in the field). That can be a life-changing moment for somebody (like Jordan Spieth in 2013). One day you're warming up on the range at Deere Run, and later that evening you're on a chartered jet for Northern Ireland. Pretty awesome.
2. How soft can it get? This course is not exactly known for firm and fast. A score of 17 under would have lost each of the last 10 editions here. I'm curious to see how easy it can play, though, after receiving 13 inches of rain in the last few months. Michael Kim's record performance of 27-under 257 last season may be in danger. Also, did you remember Michael Kim shot 27 under last year to win by eight with one of the great putting performances in the history of the PGA Tour?
3. No stars: The Deere is in a tough spot before The Open, but normally it has like one or two huge names. Not this year. Not even three-time champion Steve Stricker -- who opted for a PGA Tour Champions major -- is playing. Jordan Spieth, a two-time winner, also opted out, saying after the Travelers that it was still up in the air whether he would play.
- 2018: Michael Kim
- 2017: Bryson DeChambeau
- 2016: Ryan Moore
- 2015: Jordan Spieth
- 2014: Brian Harman
John Deere Classic picks
Winner: Collin Morikawa (20-1) -- He's had the most pro experience of any of the youngsters, and I've been so impressed with his ability to make cuts early on. He's had just three rounds over par as a pro, and two of them came at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Top 10: Viktor Hovland (18-1) -- If he's going to go T12 at Pebble Beach in that field, I'm feeling a top 10 here, especially with how much he has to gain with an Open spot up for grabs and his card for 2020 in the balance.
Sleeper: Scott Brown (60-1) -- Of players with enough rounds to make strokes gained meaningful, he's been among the best at TPC Deere Run.