PGA Tour Fantasy Golf: Previewing the John Deere Classic

John Miller@SportsSomethingCorrespondent IIIJuly 10, 2012

Can Steve Stricker win the John Deere Classic for the fourth straight year?
Can Steve Stricker win the John Deere Classic for the fourth straight year?Hunter Martin/Getty Images

This week, we are at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois for the John Deere Classic. The winner will take home $810,000 and 500 FedEx Cup Points. Steve Stricker is the defending champion.

TPC Deere Run is not one of the tougher tracks on Tour. It ranked 40th (out of 51 courses) in difficulty last season. It will play 7,268 yards long. The tees, fairways and greens are bentgrass while the rough is Kentucky bluegrass. It is running at 11 feet on the stimpmeter. TPC Deere Run has hosted this event since 2000.

Expect to see a lot of low scores this week. We're looking for players who make a ton of birdies and are putting well. It's not that accuracy is unimportant, but it's less valuable at a track like this. This is a course where certain players have a great history, so be sure to take note of them. Past success here might trump recent struggles for certain golfers.

Yahoo! Weekly Lineup Game

Group A

Steve Stricker (Starting)

Try not to over-think this one. Stricker is the three-time defending champion at this event, meaning he's won this event in each of the last three years. Despite a smaller champion's purse, there's no better option than Stricker at TPC Deere Run.

Robert Garrigus (Bench)

I'm really, really not expecting to use a bench player in Group A this week. So in the name of conservation (you can only use a player in ten tournaments) I will go with a player (who I do like this week) whom I have not used yet.

Garrigus has a decent history here, finishing T23 back in 2009. He ranks 4th on the PGA Tour in Driving Distance, 15th in GIR (Greens in Regulation percentage) and 20th in Birdie Average.

Also worth using: Zach Johnson, Charles Howell III and Sean O'Hair

Group B

Charley Hoffman (Starting)

I'm not in love with Group B this week. But Hoffman should be a good play. He's had success here before, finishing T7 in 2010 and T15 in 2009. He';s also had some success recently, finishing T2 at the Travelers Championship three weeks ago. He ranks 33rd on Tour in Birdie Average, 13th in Total Driving and 28th in All-Around Ranking.

Brendon de Jonge (Starting)

I was let down a bit by de Jonge last week, but I'm going right back. He has finished T7 here each of the last two years. He has two top-11 finishes in his last three events. He ranks 13th on Tour in GIR (Greens in Regulation percentage) and he's 23rd in All-Around Ranking.

Ryan Palmer (Bench)

Palmer has been playing outstanding golf recently. He's finished in the top-15 in each of his last four events. Only a spotty history (multiple missed cuts) here prevents me from starting him. He did manage a T23 finish here back in 2009.

He ranks 13th on Tour in Driving Distance, 10th in Strokes Gained - Putting and 13th in Birdie Average.

Tim Clark (Bench)

Clark is coming off of a T4 in his last appearance at the Travelers Championship. He has an excellent track record here, finishing T7 in 2010 and T18 in 2008. He doesn't make as many birdies as I would like, but he also makes few mistakes.

Also worth using: Ken Duke 

Group C

Jonathan Byrd (Starting)

Wow. There are a ton of quality options in Group C this week. Byrd has been playing excellent golf throughout the season, especially as of late. He also has an excellent history here, having won this event in 2007 and finished T21 in 2010. Byrd ranks 24th on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained - Putting, which should be an asset in his quest for birdies this weekend.

John Senden (Bench)

If I'm going to go with one former champion here, why not another? Senden won here back in 2006, and he also finished T12 here in 2010. He's coming off of a T10 at the U.S. Open in his last appearance. He ranks 5th on Tour in GIR (Greens in Regulation percentage) and 10th in Birdie Average. He also ranks 16th in Total Driving and comes in 16th in All-Around Ranking.

Also worth using: Pat Perez, Carl Pettersson, Seung-yul Noh, Jeff Overton, Ben Crane and Scott Piercy

Picks for The Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge

Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open (Event 1)

Group One: Luke Donald

Group Two: Padraig Harrington

Group Three: David Drysdale

Group Four: Alastair Forsyth

John Deere Classic (Event 2)

Group One: Steve Stricker

Group Two: Charley Hoffman

Group Three: Pat Perez

Group Four: Billy Horschel

Weekly Survivor/Eliminator/Earnings Leagues (Full Season)

It would seem like this is the time to finally use Steve Stricker. But I will elect to wait again. The relatively small purse ($810,000) isn't worth using Stricker for. Not when I can use him at much bigger events later in the season. And three-time defending champion or not, there's no guarantee that he wins for a fourth-straight time.

That leaves: Robert Garrigus, Sean O'Hair, Charley Hoffman, Tim Clark, Ken Duke, Jonathan Byrd, Pat Perez, Carl Pettersson, Seung-yul Noh, Jeff Overton and Scott Piercy.

Quite a few options. But not many that I feel very good about. At the end of the day, Sean O'Hair, Charley Hoffman and Jonathan Byrd are my primary options.

All of these players have a good history here. Both O'Hair and Hoffman tend to pile up more birdies than Byrd does. So we will eliminate him.

O'Hair and Hoffman are very closely matched, no matter how you examine the match-up. At the end of the day, I'm going to go with Sean O'Hair. He ranks 12th on Tour in Birdie average, he's been playing good golf as of late and he's won here before.

Already Used: Bryce Molder, Steve Marino, Bill Haas, D.A. Points, Martin Laird, Hunter Mahan, K.J. Choi, Rory McIlroy, Jarrod Lyle, Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson, Charl Schwartzel, John Senden, Bubba Watson, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, Bo Van Pelt, Fredrik Jacobson, Charles Howell III, Jim Furyk, Justin Rose, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Ben Curtis, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Ryan Moore, Ryan Palmer and Brendon de Jonge.

Weekly Survivor/Eliminator/Earnings Leagues (Season 2)

Considering the two golfers I've used so far aren't even in the field this week, I am free to select whichever golfer I prefer. But having more options can sometimes make things more complicated.

So I will make it simple. In this short-season format, you will almost always end the season with a few golfers whom you wished you had been able to use. That's the nature of the game. Because I will have so many options available to me later in the season, I am going to go with Steve Stricker here. Even if he doesn't win, he's got to at least make the top-20, right?

Already Used: Jim Furyk and Webb Simpson

Good luck to all this week. If you have any comments or questions, please use the comments feature or reach out to me on Twitter.

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