2019 John Deere Classic Picks, Rankings, Sleepers, Preview

Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2019 John Deere Classic Picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks, provide their one and done strategy for the event from TPC Deere Run. Plus, a quick look at the 2019 Scottish Open and early 2019 British Open futures.

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2019 John Deere Classic Field

Field: 156 Players | Top 70 and Ties Make the Cut
First Tee: Thursday, July 11 at 7:45 a.m. ET
Defending Champion: Michael Kim

With most of the spots already taken for The 148th Open, only a win at the 2019 John Deere Classic will secure the final spot. And, since all players inside the Top 50 in the world rankings get a spot automatically at Portrush, it’s unsurprising to see zero players ranked in the Top 50 heading to the Quad Cities. All year we’ve been wondering which event would be hit the hardest by the new schedule, but with The Open next week, a WGC the week after and the Playoffs commencing two weeks after, the 2019 John Deere Classic, with Kyle Stanley as its top-ranked player, is the runaway winner.

There’s always talk about AAAA baseball players. Way too good for AAA but without the talent to stick in the Majors. That’s this event. It’s not up to snuff with the typical TOUR event; still far superior to the alternate tournaments that run opposite the WGCs and the British Open. It still carries some gravitas because of the crew of veterans teeing off in Silvis: Zach Johnson, Stewart Cink, Lucas Glover, Charles Howell III, Kevin Streelman, Jason Kokrak, Talor Gooch, Ryan Palmer, Ryan Moore, Joel Dahmen, Dylan Fritelli, Kevin Tway, Jason Dufner, Daniel Berger Pat Perez, Danny Lee, Brian Harman, Nick Watney, Cameron Champ, Scott Stallings, Troy Merritt, along with Stanley.

But what really elevates the field, and JFC organizers couldn’t have lucked out more, is this recent infusion of under-23 talent that’s emerged throughout the year, and especially recently. Youngsters Viktor Hovland, Matthew Wolff, Sungjae Im, Joaquin Niemann, Collin Morikawa, Doc Redman, Justin Suh and Curtis Luck are all in the field. Perfect timing for this event, too. Almost all of them are entering in great form, and TPC Deere Run has been the perfect venue for first-time winners. Basically, Zach Johnson wins, Steve Stricker wins, or it’s a breakthrough. Both Bryson and Spieth notched their inaugural PGA wins at this event, almost 45% of champions since 1972 have claimed their first title at the John Deere Classic. The average age of the past six winners is 24.5.

If you’re wondering where all the good players are, they’re at the Scottish Open prepping for the British Open. Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler, Matt Wallace, Kevin Kisner, Ian Poulter, Eddie Pepperell, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton, CT Pan, Henrik Stenson and Rafa Cabrera Bello are all in the field at the Renaissance Club this week.

2019 John Deere Classic: Key Stats

Strokes Gained: Approach
Par 5s Gained
Opportunities Gained
Proximity Gained 125-175 Yards

Mayo’s Custom Stat POWER RANKINGS from FantasyNational.com

2019 John Deere Classic: Course

Course: TPC Deere Run
Yardage: 7,268
Par: 71
Greens: Bentgrass
Rank: 46/51 in 2018 Difficultly
2018 Par 5 Eagles: 41

2019 John Deere Classic: Past Winners

2018: Michael Kim -27
2017: Bryson DeChambeau -18
2016: Ryan Moore -22
2015: Jordan Spieth -20
2014: Brian Harman -22
2013: Jordan Spieth -19
2012: Zach Johnson -20
2011: Steve Stricker -22
2010: Steve Stricker -26
2009: Steve Stricker -20

2019 John Deere Classic: Notes

Historically, TPC Deere Run’s Bentgrass greens play soft compared to most courses while the rough is some of the longest on TOUR. Fortunately, more than 70% of the field will hit the fairway. One of the highest averages of any course on TOUR. Also, the wind rarely plays a factor at the venue, making it one of the easiest courses of the year.

Atypical of most courses, there is almost an even distribution amount of distances on approaches. Remove the Par 5s and Par 3s, and this is a fairway wedge fest. The field average is more than 70% on greens in regulation.

Crossover with ToC and Augusta in terms of approach shots due to the slopped nature of the fairways. The field will encounter very few flat lies in the shortgrass.

The cut line has been -2, -3 or -4 each of the past 10 years.

There are 78 bunkers littered across the course; only four water hazards.

Only six holes played over par last year with No. 18 being the most difficult (+0.247).

Despite only having three Par 5s on the course, all measure less than 600 yards and can be reached in two by some of the field. The 45 eagles made in 2018 were the second most of any Par 71 course; without an easily drivable Par 4, the 41 eagles on Par 5s were the most of any Par 71 track.

Three Par 4s come in at less than 400 yards; another four measure between 400-450 yards.

Strokes Gained: Approach has been more than twice as impactful as Strokes Gained: Off The Tee among the Top 10 finishers over the past six seasons. For the Top 5 finishers, the gap is almost three times as large.

Zach Johnson, Michael Kim, Chad Campbell, Andres Romero, Kevin Tway, Kelly Kraft, Alex Prugh and Bud Cauley haven’t missed the cut in a minimum of three starts over the past five years.

Brian Harman (2014) was the last player to win the JDC and lose strokes on the greens.

Each of the past six winners have outperformed the field on Par 3 birdie or better percentage. Half of those winners (Bryson, Harman, Spieth 2013) more than doubled the field.

Of players in the field this week, Collin Morikawa (+10.7), Matthew Wolff (+9.5), Dylan Fritelli (+7.0), Kevin Streelman (+6.9) and Martin Laird (+6.5) were the leaders in SG: APP at the 3M Open.

Of players in the field this week, Denny McCarthy, Chase Wright, Justin Suh, Troy Merritt, Lucas Glover, Johnson Wagner and Ryan Blaum all gained more than five strokes putting at the 3M Open.

On the flip side, players in the field this week who made the cut at the 3M Open and LOST five or more strokes on the greens: Dylan Fritelli, Kramer Hickok, Martin Laird and Adam Svensson. Of that group, Fritelli, Laird and Svensson finished Top 10 in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

Setting the Fantasy National stat filter to Easy Courses + Soft Greens + Last 24 Rounds: Tom Lovelady, Mackenzie Hughes, David Lingmerth, Sam Ryder, Harold Varner III, Kyle Stanley, Robert Garrigus, Ryan Moore, Josh Teater and Daniel Berger are the leaders in Opportunities Gained.

Keeping the same filters: Richy Werenski, Tom Lovelady, Harold Varner III, Matt Every, Sam Ryder, Morgan Hoffman, Tom Hoge, Russell Henley, Ted Potter and Kevin Streelman lead in Birdies or Better Gained.

Removing “Soft Greens” from the equation, Joaquin Niemann, Andres Albertson, Tom Lovelady, Bronson Burgoon, Sam Burns, Joel Dahmen, Ryan Moore, Matt Every and Sam Ryder lead in Opportunities Gained of players in this field. Cameron Champ, Dominic Bozzelli, Sungjae Im, Matt Every, Ricky Barnes, Austin Cook, Cameron Davis, Nick Watney and Bronson Burgoon are the Top 10 in Birdies or Better Gained.

Over the past 36 rounds, Harold Varner, Luke Donald, Zach Johnson, Tyrone Van Aswegen, Ryan Moore, Anirban Lahiri, Brian Stuard, Whee Kim and Troy Merritt are the only players in the field to rank inside the Top 30 in proximity gained from 125-150 yards and 150-175 yards with the Fantasy National settings on courses that play easy relative to par.

On all course difficulties, Roberto Castro, Vaughn Taylor, Matt Every, Billy Hurley III, Tom Hoge, Sepp Straka, KH Lee, Luke Donald, Troy Merritt, Andrew Landry, Collin Morikawa and Alex Cejka are the only players to achieve Top 30 ranks from both distances over the past 36 rounds.

In 62 rounds at TPC Deere Run, Zach Johnson has been par or better 56 times, and has been par or better in 41 straight rounds.

2019 John Deere Classic Picks — Targets From Each Range

Joel Dahmen

With all the interest in the young guns this week, how about an internet favorite who’s lights out with his irons and in search of his first career victory? Dahmen has been unusually inconsistent with his irons, by his standards, over the past few months, gaining on approach in only three of his past six events. When he has gained, though, it’s been an average of +5.0 SG: APP. Already with a T2 at this course a year ago, if the putter continues to stay hot, Dahmen’s gained in six of his past eight events on the greens, and the irons trend upwards, it might be an older first-time winner than we expect.

Troy Merritt

Fresh off a T7 finish in the Twin Cities and gaining strokes on approach for the first time since the Memorial, Merritt looks to up his game again in the Quad Cities and build off a great week. A notoriously streaky player, he’s made four of five lifetime cuts at the JDC and is one of the few in the field who ranks among the field leaders in proximity gained from 125-175 yards on both easy and neutral courses. His off-the-tee woes should be masked by what this track demands with the drivers, and the short hitter has been sneakily performing on Par 5s this year. Merritt ranks 24th in this field in Par 5s gained over the past 50 rounds. While Bermuda is his best putting surface, both of his career wins have come on Bentgrass, and both have come between May and the end of July.

Sam Ryder

Gaining on his approaches in five consecutive events, an easy, shortish course is exactly what Ryder needs to contend. He’s bad off the tee and horrible around the greens, but since more than 70% of the field finds the fairway and hits greens in regulation, a pure second shot event with a hot putter is precisely his type of tournament. He showcased that last season when he finished in a tie for second.

Martin Laird

Very quietly, the Scotsman has made seven of his past nine cuts and started to put together some excellent ball striking numbers the past three events. The issue: The flat stick just hasn’t cooperated. Laird’s lost an incredible 8.2 strokes on the greens in his past six rounds. A tough look from a player who’s been an average to above average putter in his career. He’s never played this event in his career, however, he’s historically a great Par 3 performer and ranks seventh in this field in Par 5s gained over the past 24 rounds.

Other notable names appearing near the top of stat models and the win simulator at FantasyNational.com: Viktor Hovland, Collin Morikawa, Matthew Wolff, Joaquin Niemann, Brian Harman, Cameron Tringale, Hank Lebioda, Adam Svensson

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Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2019 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Podcast of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Video award, and is a finalist for three FSWA Awards in 2019 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year). His 17 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditions Season Long). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.

I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is ThePME) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.