There is good news and bad news. Good news first: After this week, the season’s final major championship, the Open Championship, will be contested at Royal St George’s, bringing an end to Shane Lowry’s abnormally long reign as “Champion Golfer of the Year.” After the Open, we have the Olympics in August followed by the FedEx Cup Playoffs culminating in the Tour Championship in September. Big things are coming.
Now the bad news: This week, it’s another John Deere Classic. Recent winners of this event include Dylan Frittelli, Michael Kim and Ryan Moore. Steve Stricker won this thing three times in a row, and if there’s a better illustration of the field quality of this event over time, you’ll have to let me know. The John Deere Classic is the PGA Tour’s version of, like, the Bucks and the Suns in the NBA Finals. You’ll watch it because it’s on, but you probably won’t remember who won after a few years pass.
Let’s see where the value lies as we dive headfirst into our picks and predictions for the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois.
Being played just before The Open Championship, this week's John Deere Classic field features just five players ranked inside the world's top-50: Daniel Berger (16), Sungjae Im (27), Kevin Na (40), Brian Harman (46) and Si Woo Kim (50).
— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelTAN) July 5, 2021
VALUE PICK: BRIAN HARMAN TOP 10 (+175)
Brian Harman is nobody’s idea of a physically dominant golf professional. Harman is listed at 5’7” and 150 pounds, and when you watch him play golf you wonder if he’s even that big. We don’t do short people slander here, but when the top two players in the world right now are Jon Rahm (6’2”, 220, shoulders like a bricklayer) and Dustin Johnson (6’4”, 190, drives the ball miles), it’s difficult to put Harman in any discussion of really good players. Which is shortsighted (sorry), because Harman is a really good player.
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Harman won this event in 2014 and tied for 10th at this tournament in 2017. In 2021, Harman is currently 31st on the money list with $2.9M banked. He finished tied for fifth at the Travelers Championship two weeks ago and has made the cut in 13 of his last 14 starts. In this watered-down field, Harman qualifies as a contender to win. Finishing in the top 10 here is well within his reach.
Casual HOLE IN ONE for the leader Troy Merritt pic.twitter.com/YMTFJi3bIv
— Fore Play (@ForePlayPod) July 3, 2021
LONG SHOT PICK: TROY MERRITT TOP 5 (+800)
Troy Merritt’s Official World Golf Ranking is #86, no doubt greatly improved by his playoff loss (and T2 finish) at the Rocket Mortgage Classic last week in Michigan. The knock on Merritt in recent months has been his inability to close. Since the beginning of the year, Merritt has posted the following fourth-round scores in the following events:
Farmers Insurance Open: 74. Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship: 75. Valero Texas Open: 73. Memorial Tournament: 78. U.S. Open: 78.
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It’s a bloodletting. Merritt cost himself untold hundreds of thousands of dollars with loose shots and poor finishes on Sundays. Recently, though, Merritt has seemed to find the ability to correct this trend. He posted Sunday 65’s at both the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Charles Schwab Challenge, and shot 70 at the Valspar Championship on Sunday. In all three of those events, Merritt finished in the top 10. He is in very good form coming into this event and seems to have made great progress with his Sunday Scaries. A return of eight to one is worth a small wager.
Daniel Berger, aka DB Strait Vibin, has been added to the John Deere Classic field. The World No. 16 has 4 professional wins under his belt and finished T7 at the 2021 US Open. Solid add to the field where he looks to be no doubt strait vibin.
— Celia Palermo (@CeliaPalermo) July 2, 2021
PICK TO WIN THE 2021 JOHN DEERE CLASSIC: DANIEL BERGER (+1100)
Daniel Berger has the best OWGR ranking in this field (#16), which probably explains why he is the tournament favorite at +1100. Berger does not have an extensive record at this event, but he did finish tied for fifth at the 2017 John Deere Classic.
What really informs this pick is Berger’s propensity to be very comfortable in tournaments where you need to make a lot of eagles and birdies to be in contention. Berger shot four rounds in the 60’s including a final round 64 to post 21 under par at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May. When he won at Pebble Beach in February, he finished 18 under par. He also posted four rounds in the 60’s at the Sony Open in January.
Berger’s record in major championships is not very good, even counting his top 10 at the U.S. Open three weeks ago. The John Deere Classic is not a major. Berger has more than enough game to win this tournament.