John Deere Classic experts' picks

July, 9, 2013

Each week of the season, our experts share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

This week's tournament: The John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, senior golf analyst: Zach Johnson. This would, and should, be his tournament ... except for that darn Steve Stricker. The past four times Johnson teed it up in the event? Winner, runner-up, third and 21st. If he finds a way to defend his title, please, don't feel surprised.

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Steve Stricker. The 46-year-old Wisconsin native has won this event in three of the past four years. He has had rounds of 60 and 61 at the TPC Deere Run.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Zach Johnson. The defending champion at the John Deere is a longtime supporter of the event and has been top three or better in three of his past four appearances.

Kevin Maguire, senior golf editor: John Senden. The Aussie owns 21 career rounds in the 60s at the event. He doesn't own a single top-10 so far this season, but that streak should come to an end this week in Silvis, Ill.

Birdie Buster

Collins: Camilo Villegas. Seems the Colombian "spiderman" has gotten all eight legs under him again. He hasn't missed a cut since the Wells Fargo and since then his strokes-gained putting average has been very solid. Expect Camilo to get his third top-10 of the year this week.

Evans: Jonas Blixt. The Greenbrier Classic winner is looking to carry that momentum from West Virginia into Illinois.

Harig: Matt Jones. The Aussie comes to the John Deere Classic on a bit of a roll, having posted his career-best finish, a tie for second at the Greenbrier Classic.

Maguire: Jordan Spieth. The 19-year-old Spieth, who is tied for sixth in most top-10s on the PGA Tour in 2013, won't be allowed to play in the FedEx Cup playoffs this year unless he earns a victory in the next month or so since he's not a full-fledged PGA Tour member. What a travesty. Right now, his $1,206,179 in earnings would place him 53rd on the PGA Tour money list, just a few bucks behind Luke Donald.

Super Sleeper

Collins: John Senden. Bet you forgot his one and only tour victory came here in 2006. He's on his longest cuts-made streak so far this year, a whopping FOUR in a row. We all know golf is a game of momentum. John has a little right now.

Evans: Tommy Gainey. Golf's blue-collar man has missed 13 of 23 cuts in 2013, but he showed with a 62 in the first round at the Greenbrier that at any given time he can get on the birdie binge that carried him to his first career win last October at the McGladrey Classic. Last year at John Deere, he finished in a tie for 13th.

Harig: Scott Stallings. He's currently on the alternate list for next week's Open Championship, having just missed out on a spot. A victory takes care of everything, as the winner is in if not already exempt.

Maguire: Luke Guthrie.The former Illini star played the John Deere Classic a year ago for the first time and turned in a T-5 showing at TPC Deere Run. With his playing privileges for next season likely secure after earning nearly $1 million so far in his rookie season, Guthrie should be able to shine again in the Midwest.


Collins: Steve Stricker. He is about to get his fourth win in five years at this event. Most times when we throw stats like that out they're about a different guy. This tournament, when guys look at the leaderboard and see Strick's name, they know they're playing for second.

Evans: Jordan Spieth. The 19-year-old rookie has five top-10s this season. Last week at Greenbrier he was in contention until a final-round 73 dropped him into a tie for 23rd. A win this week would give him a berth into his first Open Championship.

Harig: Steve Stricker. The John Deere is almost like a major to Stricker, who has won the tournament three times and is skipping next week's Open Championship. This is just his eighth tournament of the year, his last event a tie for eighth at the U.S. Open.

Maguire: Colt Knost. He's missed five straight cuts. He's 181st on the PGA Tour money list. And the kicker? He's never played Rounds 3 and 4 at the John Deere Classic in three career starts. The way this season has gone on the PGA Tour with winners from out of nowhere, the 2007 U.S. Amateur champion is poised for his first victory!





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