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Sunday, July 7, 2013

John Deere Classic - Preview

The John Deere Classic (aka the Steve Stricker Invitational) is the next stop on the PGA TOUR schedule. Zach Johnson broke a streak of three consecutive wins by Steve Stricker to win what ZJ considers to be his personal "fifth major."

The course is TPC Deere run, a 7,268 par 71 that features three par 5s, four par 3s and 11 par 4s. Since the tournament moved to this venue in 2000, the winning score has ranged from 16-under to 26-under, meaning birdies are a must.

This tournament has preceded The Open Championship every years since 2004, limiting the number of top-tier players in the field. That hasn't diminished the pedigree of the winners. Beginning in 2004, the winners are Mark Hensby ('04), Sean O'Hair ('05), John Senden ('06), Jonathan Byrd ('07), Kenny Perry ('08), Stricker ('09/'10/'11) and Z. Johnson ('12).

Looking at the stats, those at the top of the leaderboard are either running the tables on the greens or at the top of the list for proximity. For example, Johnson and Troy Matteson were the top two in SGP last year and fought it out in a playoff. Others in the top 10 who were weak with the putter made up for it by hitting it very close. An example of that was Kyle Stanley finishing second in 2011 while leading in proximity.

I've also noticed that there doesn't seem to be a premium on fairways and greens. This suggests that it's easy enough to scramble around Deere Run.

While I still have plenty of research to go, I'm going to pay particular attention to the class of the field, with a further tilt to those than can get hot with the putter. ZJ can putt. Stricker can putt. Guys like Perry and Senden aren't known for their putters, but are elite ball-strikers. Byrd's a guy that can get hot with a putter. Those winners support the stats above. Hit it really close, or make everything.

Best of luck with your research this week!

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