It’s time for the John Deere Classic power rankings, and history suggests this should be a little easier to peg than last week’s venture into West Virginia. TPC Deere Run has a steady track record dating back to 2000, and has also been kind to some young guns over the years. Kyle Stanley’s narrow loss to Steve Stricker in 2011 and Luke Guthrie’s T5 last year spring to mind.
While we threw a power ranking together last week to see what may stick, the overwhelming theme/motto/advice in both the preview and power ranking was to expect the unexpected. I doubt very seriously that Jonas Blixt or Johnson Wagner or Steven Bowditch were inside the top 80 in anyone’s power rankings, which is exactly what The Old White TPC tends to spit out every year.
This week’s question is much different, yet obvious. Are you with Stricker, or against him?
In Stricker's last four starts here he has three wins and a T5. He will be the heavy chalk. If you've saved him up until this point in your one-and-done, it’s likely for this week. He is a MUST in Yahoo! and PGA TOUR games and a virtual MUST in the Golf Channel game no matter if you are in first or last place. If he bombs out, you are in excellent company. What you can’t afford to do in most games is to sit him out when 80 to 90 percent of your league will play him and then watch him to crack a top five.
He might be rusty. He might miss the cut. But you can’t bet on it.
Here we go:
- Steve Stricker – See above. The only question I can see in this debate is what to do in a one-and-done format. I used him at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and got a solo second out of him, so I don’t have him as an option. I’m not even sure I’d get cute and go against him if I’m chasing. There will be other events like The Open Championship, WGC-Bridgestone, PGA and Playoffs where you can make up ground.
- Zach Johnson – He’s 8/11 here with a 1, a T2 and a T3, but his season has been a bit lackluster. Since his third at Colonial, he’s missed a cut and hasn't finished inside the top 55 in two other starts. He’s another sensible Yahoo! play, but I don’t see him as a “must” for anything else. Just a steady option.
- Brendon de Jonge – He’s the early leading candidate to be my one-and-done. (I’ll have to reconsider if Glass throws the hex on him at Rotoworld on Tuesday.) He had a really nice week at The Greenbrier and his last three starts here are T7, T7 and T19. At 105th in SGP, he would need an above average week with the flat stick but it could happen.
- Charley Hoffman – This is a good course for streaky players and Hoffman can fit that bill. He’s 4/5 here with a couple of recent top 15s and he fits the profile we talked about yesterday. Remember we pointed out that a guy either needs to run the table with the putter (SGP) or knock the flagstick out (Proximity) and make plenty of birdies (Par Breakers)? Hoffman ranks seventh in Par Breakers, 38th in SGP and 48th in Proximity. He’s a steady play.
- Jordan Spieth – He fits the Kyle Stanley / Luke Guthrie mold of the recent past. From what I've seen over the last two weekends, his putter has let him down in the final 36 holes of a tournament. He could have won either of the last two weeks if he got hot with the flat stick over the weekend, and that could be the case here as well. This is very reactive to that, but my early read on Spieth is similar to many other upper-crust TOUR players. He’ll probably win 8-15 times in his career and will likely pick off one or two majors. A U.S. Open or PGA seems most likely. I don’t think he’s the second coming of Phil Mickelson or Rory McIlroy, but he could have the career of a Davis Love III, Freddie Couples, Adam Scott……..
- Scott Stallings – Per usual, I haven’t read anything from any other media for this week’s tournament at this point in the week, but I suspect Stallings may be a bit of a forgotten man. He missed the cut here last year after a T22 in 2011 and finished a modest T23 at The Greenbrier. He has a good history on easy courses and both of his wins have come in July.
- Keegan Bradley – First trip to Silvis, Illinois for the John Deere Classic, so hard to know what to expect or why he’s here. My theory is that he didn't play the week immediately prior to the Masters and the U.S. Open and was T54 at Augusta National and MC a Merion, so he’s trying to mix it up. Another idea could be a quick grab at some Presidents Cup points, but at seventh in the standings and given his Ryder Cup play I don’t see him being left off the team in any scenario. He will be a tough call for many gamers this week in formats like Yahoo!
- Ryan Moore – He’s 4/4 here with a T8 last year and has sprinkled in a couple of top 10s lately. It’s not any more complicated than that.
- John Senden – In our hit it close or make everything formula, he’s a guy that will have to hit it close. He’s won here (’06) and was fourth last year. Current form is decent dating back to Merion. His putter scares everyone to death. It’s not Robert Allenby bad, but it can be close.
- Matt Jones – He’s missed the cut here three times and finished fifth in his other two starts. He enters off a T2 at The Greenbrier, so I’m leaning more towards the good weeks at TPC Deere Run. It would not be a fluke or out of the blue if he won.
- Rory Sabbatini – Say what? Yep. It’s time to pay Sabo some attention. He tied for 19th here last year and ranks 12th in Par Breakers and 11th in Proximity. He tied for ninth at The Greenbrier and shared seventh at the FedEx St. Jude Classic with two missed cuts sandwiched in between. One of them was Merion, so he gets a pass there. His personal life has likely been a disaster of late, as you would know if you follow his ex wife or soon-to-be ex wife (it’s hard to keep up) on Twitter, but he may be coming around.
- K.J. Choi – An intriguing option, he was T13 here last year and T23 last week in West Virginia. His stats seem to suggest a decent week as well.
Next 5: Luke Guthrie, Charles Howell III, Chris Kirk, Louis Oosthuizen and Nick Watney
- Scott Brown – He’s been the king of opposite-field events and while the John Deere isn’t adjacent to another tournament, many of the elite have already headed to the British Isles. He was seventh here in 2012.
- Jonathan Byrd – A ton of missed cuts and weak finishes are highlighted only by a T10 in Memphis, but he’s a past winner and runner-up here, with two other top 25s. Course horse?
- Troy Matteson – Popped his head up at The Greenbrier with a T41 last week. Doesn’t sound like much, but it was his second-best finish of the year. He lost to Zach Johnson in a playoff here last year and owns a T3 and a T10 at TPC Deere Run.
- Charlie Wi – Similar to Matt Jones, Wi’s made just 2/5 cuts but they went for a T4 and a T15. He’s an excellent putter and makes his share of birdies, so it could all come together.
We will return tomorrow to take a peek at the usual games. Until then, best of luck and happy research!