One week before The Open Championship, many players will either be in Europe for the Scottish Open or preparing for a links style challenge that this tournament State side will simply not give.
Since 2000TPC Deere Run has been the host course and is a 7,268 yard par 71 with nearly 8- bunkers and 3 water hazards coming into play and bentgrass greens and fairways.
It has often been considered an easy scoring place – ranking 42nd out of 49 in difficulty on the PGA Tour last year, meaning the winner will have to shoot very low to stand any chance.
For us, putting and GIR are the most crucial stats, alongside scoring averages – to win you will need to attack pins and hole your putts!
Steve Stricker obviously has incredible course form, winning 3 years on the trot before Zach Johnson stole his crown last year and both will be teeing up this year. Could be an interesting week, but anyone who has a place at Muirfield will not want to be exerting too much come Sunday evening, which has to be taken into consideration.
Keegan Bradley (25/1 Various)
Keegan Bradley has had a peculiar year, dipping in and out of form, showing brilliance at times and bizarreness the rest.
He went on a run of four top 10s in a row, before missing 3 cuts in his last 7 tournaments, although that included a 2nd place at the Byron Nelson. Confusing? You bet.
His last outing was at the Travelers where he did shoot 3 rounds in the 60s on the way to a T18 finish. So why do we feel we should be backing him for a tournament he has not played at before?
Because he has the class and potential to destroy the course.
Whilst many people will be saying how important course form is (including us in some ways) last year, both Scott Brown and Luke Guthrie found top 7s in their first outing here and no offence to them, Bradley is in a different league.
He is driving the ball longer this year, currently in 8th on the PGA Tour stats, which means he will have several short iron approaches to the pins and he has hit 93.3% of the greens from inside 75 yards (18th in the rankings).
Because this is a course where low shooting is so crucial, players will need to attack greens and he is one of the more forward thinking golfers – 3rd in going for the green. Therefore his scoring stats come as no surprise – 17th in birdie average, 15th in scoring average and 16th for rounds in the 60s.
For us, he has struggled on the greens at times this year, but it is no surprise that when he has played well, putts have not stopped rolling in and he does lie in 42nd for strokes gained putting and 23rd in 3-putt avoidance.
If, he gets in a flow and decides to throw everything at this tournament, then there is no doubting he could win it at a canter, but a lot of it depends on how he sees this in terms of The Open next week.
But, not for the first time, in Keegan we trust.
Ryan Moore (33/1 Various)
Moore shot 4 solid rounds in the 60s last year to finish T8 but he was never really in contention on the Sunday. He is yet to miss a cut at this venue and he will gain confidence from his recent showings – T7 at the Travelers and before a MC at Merion, he had a T13 finish at the Memorial. He is a class player when he is in full flow and with that recent surge, he should be excited to get on to a course he has played well at before.
Stats wise he may not fit the bill completely, but across the board he is relatively consistent and after some woeful performances mid-season you would not expect anything else. Lying in 46th for 1-putt percentage, 55th strokes gained putting and 72nd in proximity to the hole, whilst he is 24th for driving accuracy.
Considering his talent and liking for the course, this could be an important week for Moore and we have every faith he will be challenging come Sunday evening!
Brendon De Jonge (50/1 StanJames)
If you have been following us this year, you will notice a few players that we just keep plugging for, knowing that they will win eventually, it is just a matter of which week. (Paul Casey we are looking at you) Brendon De Jonge is certainly one of them but we feel this really could be the week.
He has impressive form at Deere Run, 19th last year, T7 in 2010 and in 2011 he was 2nd going into the final day before a 74 ruined his chances, eventually finishing T7 again.
He did shoot a 63 2 years ago whilst 4 rounds in the 60s last year all prove his liking for the course.
He has been in up and down form, not able to find a top 10 for a number of weeks now, but he has often been close before trailing away at the weekend, usually due to poor putting. To say this is last chance saloon is underestimating the extremity of how we feel about the Zimbabwean. We just say trust us!
As for stats, he is a perfect fit for this challenge, 32nd in strokes gained putting, 28th in scoring av. 1st for rounds in the 60s, whilst we all know how good he is tee to green. 38th in driving accuracy, 20th GIR, 16th in ball striking and 66th in proximity to the hole.
Back in 2011 5 of the top 6 were in the top 30 for GIR inside 75 yards and De Jonge lies in 17th for this category.
Basically, one last chance De Jonge. Do not let us down
Bryce Molder (100/1 StanJames)
Admittedly, Bryce Molder does not have the most incredible course form, but 2 30th places out of 3 is not the worst return. (Especially considering he WD last year)
Whilst his form has not been great of recent times, a 67, 66 last week will give him an enormous amount of confidence going into a tournament where the course should really suit him. If his game is on…
12th in 1-putt percentage, 15th in 3-putt avoidance and 9th in strokes gained putting prove how incredible he has been with his putter, the only worry being whether his irons will get him into a scoring position.
He lies in 9th for rounds in the 60s and 58th in scoring av. Whilst he is 43rd in driving accuracy and crucially 55th for GIR inside 75 yards.
When you piece together all those stats, you would be foolish not to think about backing him, it’s just whether he can put it all together and get his irons working fully.
JJ Henry (175/1 Bet365)
JJ Henry has also not been in the greatest form of late with 2 MC in a row but before that he did record a T5 finish at the Travelers which he will still hopefully be remembering! Especially as TPC Deere Run has seen Henry produce some solid displays – 13th last year after putting himself into a good position after the first two rounds and a T5 in 2009, when he shot 4 rounds in the 60s.
Everything will depend on how he gets his putter working this week, because tee to green he is very proficient on a regular basis – 25th for GIR, 31st driving accuracy, 30th ball striking and 60th for GIR inside 75 yards. Even with his poor putting at times, he does lie in 58th for the 3-putt avoidance and 77th for rounds in the 60s, which proves he has the capabilities to shoot low, but admittedly all of his game needs to be in tune and flowing.
But isn’t that the point in backing outsiders? They are high odds for a reason and you just never know!