By Michael McGill

Rev up the mower, start-up the tractor or jump on the combine harvester. It is time to travel to the Midwest for the John Deere Classic!

Silvis, Illinois should come to life this week as the John Deere Classic is played at TPC Deere Run for the thirteenth time since its first visit here in 2000. John Deere has been the sponsor of this event since 1999.

The course measures 7268 yards and is a Par 71 with 78 bunkers and 3 water hazards and the fairways and greens are bentgrass. The scoring should be low this week as TPC Deere Run was only rated 40th most difficult out of 51 courses on the PGA tour in 2011.

This is evident by looking at the scores from the past three years.

In 2009 Steve Stricker finished on -20 and won by three shots from Brett Quigley, Zach Johnson and Brandt Snedeker. In 2010 Steve Stricker was at it again when he successfully defended his title with a score of -26. He beat Paul Goydos by two shots with Jeff Maggert a further two shots back on -20.

Last year Steve was -22 when he won his third straight title. He saw off Kyle Stanley on -21 and Matt McQuillan was in a share for third on -17 with Zach Johnson.

This year Stricker is the over whelming favourite to claim his fourth straight title! Can he do what Tiger Woods did at the Buick Invitational from 2005-2008 and win four straight? We will find out on Sunday afternoon.

The Top 5 in betting this week are:-

Steve Stricker 7/1. Three straight victories. Say no more.

Zach Johnson 12/1. A win and two seconds already this season. T3rd here last year and T2nd in 2009. Will challenge this week.

Nick Watney 20/1. Playing reasonable golf this season and looking for a high finish this week.

Jonathan Byrd 25/1. Five Top 10’s from 15 starts this season.Won here in 2007.

Ryan Palmer 25/1. Four Top 10’s in last 6 starts. Career best form.

Aside from Stricker and Byrd we also have John Senden, Sean O’Hair and David Toms as past winners taking part this week. They are joined by recent PGA tour winners Carl Pettersson and Ted Potter Jnr.

If you are looking for complete rank outsiders then you can check out Dean Wilson and Matt Bettencourt who are both 500/1. If you are into trading on golf then they could be the men for you.Wilsonwas second in the Canadian Open while Bettencourt was tied for sixth in the RBC Heritage.

So what does it take to win the John Deere Classic?

If you look at the past winners of this event, they have all ranked highly in hitting greens. Getting that ball on the dance floor is what it is all about.

Once you are there you need to sink it and putting could play a vital role this week as it is sure to be a birdie-fest and it may come down to the person who has the least putts. Also look for guys who rank highly in birdies and par four performance.

If you like a golfer who is still looking for that first PGA tour victory do not let that turn you off backing him. This tournament has a habit of giving us first time winners. Take Stricker out of the picture and you have a host of first time winners in recent years like John Senden, Sean O’Hair, Mark Hensby, David Gossett, Michael Clark II and J.L Lewis.

Time to have a look at who we have selected this week.

Ryan Palmer 25/1   

Ryan is in career best form at the moment.

He has had 16 starts this year and has made 11 cuts. From those 11 cuts he has chalked up seven Top 25’s and four Top 10’s.

The thing that sticks out the most with him is that those four Top 10’s have all come in his last six starts! Like I said, career best form!

Those last six starts have been T4th Zurich Classic of New Orleans, CUT Players Championship, T9th HP Byron Nelson Classic, T5th Crowne Plaza Invitational, T3rd St Jude Classic and T15th AT&T National.

When it comes to shooting low scores Ryan knows what it takes. Last year in the Bob Hope Classic he finished T4th on -26. His T4th in the Zurich Classic this season was -16. When he won the 2010 Sony Open he finished on -15 and when he had his first PGA tour victory in 2004 at the Funai Classic he was -22.

Six starts at the John Deere have thrown up finished of Cut, T23rd, Cut, T27th, T20th and Cut.

On the big stage in 2011 he was 10th Masters, T21st US Open, T30th Open Championship and T19th PGA Championship.

This season his stats of 13th driving distance, 10th strokes gained putting and 13th in birdie average should see him play well here.

That fourth PGA tour victory is just around the corner. Perhaps it is this week.

Chris Kirk 125/1  

Why would you pick a guy who has missed his last three cuts? Well lets begin at the start.

Chris turned pro in 2007. His 2010 season on the tour was nothing short of sensational. He made 17 cuts from 21 starts. He notched up two wins (Fort Smith Classic -16 and Knoxville News Sentinel Open -20), two seconds (-11 and -18) and two fifth place (-15 and -21) finishes!

He went on to finish second on the money list.

He had his rookie year on the PGA tour last year and won the Viking Classic on -22! Other top ten finishes included T7th Bob Hope Classic (-23), T2nd Shell Houston Open (-17) and T8th AT&T National (-7). He was also T22nd in the John Deere Classic (-11).

This seasons highlights have been T7th Hyundai Tournament of Champions (-14) and T5th Crowne Plaza Invitational.

What stands out the most about Chris is that all his high finishes have come on easy scoring courses much like TPC Deere Run. To win this week you will need to shoot a low score. Which we know he can do.

If you look at his stats this season there is nothing to write home about apart from two that jump out. 8th in Par 4 birdie or better average and 7th in GIR from other than the fairway. Those two stats should see him go well this week.

Win number two on the PGA tour is not to far away for this rising start of golf.

Lets hear your thoughts?

Do you agree with our selections? Who do you like this week? Who do you think could surprise this week? Can Stricker win 4 in a row?

We would love to hear what you have to say!


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