2008 John Deere Classic Preview and Picks

Tournament: John Deere Classic
Date: Thursday, July 10th through Sunday July 13, 2008
Course: TPC Deere Run - Silvis, IL
Television: Golf Channel/CBS

by Matt M. of Predictem.com, Chief Golf Handicapper

The John Deere Classic is next up on the PGA schedule and is the last American stop prior to the year’s third Major, the British Open. The TPC Deere Run in Silvis, IL serves as the host course and while many players are already overseas practicing for the Open, the remaining pros will battle for the trophy, the $756,000 winner’s check and a British Open exemption. The Golf Channel brings you the early round coverage with CBS picking up the weekend telecasts. The satellite radio set can check out four days of coverage on XM.

Those that tune in to watch this week’s play will surely see a birdie-fest as the Deere has consistently produced very low winning totals over the years. Jonathan Byrd captured last year’s Classic at 18-under, one shot more than the 19-under that John Senden turned in for the ’06 win. J.P. Hayes went 22-under in an ’02 victory, so look to the birdie machines on Tour to fare well this week. Deere Run will play at par-71 for the Classic and measures a shortish 7,257 yards. Ball striking is always important, but the layout can be overpowered a bit with the longball and a hot putter.

What the TPC lacks in raw distance, it makes up for with sloping fairways, well-placed bunkers and pesky tree lines that will require the players to find the appropriate landing areas to have free runs at the pins. As with most courses, Deere Run saves some of it’s best for last with 17 and 18 giving players the opportunity to gain ground or perhaps give some back on the way in. Seventeen is the last birdie chance as the par-5 is reachable for the bombers at 557 yards, but is penalizing around the greens with bunkers and pitching areas that are well below the putting surface. Eighteen is a tough finisher as a par-4, playing 463 yards. The fairway and green are bunkered with trees and water in play as well. Anyone needing a birdie to tie on Sunday will have a tall order in front of them.

Each week, we breakdown the top contenders for the tournament and make a pick to win from a short, middle and long odds perspective. We also check the golf sportsbooks for some head to head matches and pick some winners there. This week’s odds to win and matches come courtesy of the board at Bodog Sportsbook.

Kenny Perry

7 to 1 to win and 6 to 5 for a top-5 finish (including ties)

Perry is rightfully the favorite here based on the last month of play that has seen him win twice and log an aggregate 38-under total over those four weeks. Perry has only missed the weekend once this year and he will be focused on this week as he has already declared that he will be skipping the British Open. The good play of late has seen Perry’s scoring average drop to a third best 69.56 with greens in regulation a strong suit as Perry ranks 10th on Tour in that category. Kenny is long and is above average with the putter and leads the Tour in total birdies on the year. Perry logged a 65 in last year’s event en route to a T11 finish.

Aaron Baddeley

20 to 1 and 3 to 1

There is quite a gap between first and second favorite here, but that is more a compliment to Perry than a knock on the rest of the field. Badds is looking for a jump to his season as he is winless and has only two top-10’s in 14 starts. Baddeley is deadly with the putter as he ranks in the top-20 in both average and total putts and cashes in on over 3.5 birdies per round. The flatstick will have to make up for some accuracy issues with both the driver and approach game, but if Baddeley can get on the greens in good shape, he is among the best in conversion % at over 30%.

Heath Slocum

22 to 1 and 3 to 1

Slocum is on a run of his own lately, with top-25’s in four of his last five starts, including three top-10 finishes. Heath is 8th on Tour in fairways hit and is solid in GIR% at 37th. A few more putts will need to fall to keep pace this week, but Slocum has last year’s final round 65 and T6 finish to build confidence. Slocum has made 14 consecutive cuts, which makes him a solid pick in the tournament total matches.

Carl Pettersson

25 to 1 and 4 to 1

Pettersson is another who is playing his best over the last month. Carl cashed in back to back top-10’s at the very tough Memorial and U.S. Open before a middle of the pack run at the Travelers. Petterson is a top-flight putter with a solid all around game that brought a solo 5th in last year’s Deere. One stat line that will play this week is the 11th best, 224 total birdies thus far.

Tim Clark

25 to 1 and 4 to 1

Clark is among the best on Tour with the putter and proved he can go low while taking the runner-up spot at 13-under at the Crowne earlier in the year. Clark will have to up the GIR stat this week, but he likes Deere Run, as evidenced by the solo second last year that included rounds of 65 and 66.

D.J.Trahan

28 to 1 and 9 to 2

D.J. is looking to for his second win of the year and is looking to build on three straight top-25’s including a T4 at the U.S. Open. Trahan hits a lot of fairways and greens, leading to one of the better ball striking stats in the field, and is an above average putter as well. Trahan is a good candidate to go low as he is 5th in total birdies and is 22nd in eagles in ’08.

Bubba Watson

28 to 1 and 9 to 2

Watson is streaking after a T6 and T2 in the Buick and Travelers and is looking to overpower the TPC as the longest driver on Tour at 313 yards. The driver can be crooked at times, but Bubba brings it back, hitting the 11th most greens in regulation. The putter will need to be hot to contend this week, but top-15 marks in total birdies and eagles are hard to ignore in this one.

Nathan Green

40 to 1 and 7 to 1

Green is our longshot pick for the second time in three weeks based on his ability to cash in birdies. Nathan has missed his last two cuts, but has been under par in both, so it’s not a deal breaker and we are looking for his top-5 putter to heat up and carry him to contention this week. Green was a T3 here last year and turned in a 63 in the event to prove he can go real low. If he can get in birdie range, Green brings the Tour’s second best conversion %.

Others to watch:

Jonathan Byrd: 33 to 1 - Defending champion posted all four rounds in the 60’s last year.

For the Win

Short: Kenny Perry 7-1 Odds - Kenny is on a Tiger-like run and is just too hot to not pick here.

Middle of the Road: Bubba Watson 28-1 Odds - The long game will put the scoring clubs in his hands and thats good when you need to go low.

Longshot: Nathan Green 40-1 Odds - Looking for the putter to carry him to a slew of birdies and onto the first page of the leaderboard.

Matches (our pick)

Matches are for entire tournament. (check your favorite golf sportsbook for a variety of matchups as well as daily matches.)

Heath Slocum (-125) v. Aaron Baddeley (-105) (Baddeley)

Slocum has been on a better run of late, but Baddeley cashes in more birdies on average. Better pay on the line pushes this one Badds’ way as well.

Tim Clark (-115) v. Carl Pettersson (-115) (Pettersson)

Both players were in the top-5 last year, but Petterson has the birdie and scoring average edge to get the nod here.

Good Luck!