Course Spotlight: Why good putters win at TPC Deere Run
4 Min Read
Written by Keith Stewart @KJStewartpga
The average winning score over the last decade at the John Deere Classic is 21-under par, which is why we can expect another shootout for the third week in a row.
John Deere took over as title sponsor in 1999 and moved the venue to TPC Deere Run. Aside from the naming synergy, the drama at the John Deere has always been surrounded by great scoring.
Separating from the field in Silvis, Illinois, is all about converting birdie chances. The 2022 winner, J.T. Poston, hit 83% (60/72) of his greens in regulation. Converting those birdie opportunities into low scores was his key to victory. Coming into the week, most players are focused on getting the ball in play and their iron game. The fact is, in a week where more than 20-under par wins, the most impactful club to your final score is the flatstick.
The par-71 scorecard at TPC Deere Run has three par 5s, four par 3s and 11 par 4s. The course covers 7,289 yards of rugged terrain. Seventy-six bunkers, tree-lined fairways and elevation changes can easily catch the eye, but the blueprint to winning the John Deere is found on the putting surfaces. The answer why can be found in one of the oldest misconceptions about tournament golf.
“Good putters have an advantage on easy greens.”
Most golf fans believe the opposite. Fact is, the more difficult you make the putting surfaces, the harder it is for everyone. A course like Augusta National Golf Club mitigates putting because the entire field is just trying to two-putt. At TPC Deere Run, players can make a bunch of birdie putts. When the greens are flat, great putters convert more putts than average putters.
• The last five winners of the John Deere Classic have gained an average of seven strokes (6.8) against the field with their flatstick.
• Seven of the last 10 winners have gained more than four strokes on the greens against the field.
• Players make more putts in the 5-10’, 10-15’, and 15-20’ zones at TPC Deere Run than the PGA TOUR average.
Ryder Cup Captains Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson have four wins combined at the John Deere Classic. Stricker won the tournament three years in a row (2009-11). Other recent winners are known to be great on the greens, including Brian Harman, Ryan Moore and Jordan Spieth. Before we hand the trophy over to Denny McCarthy, let’s take a deeper look into how the guys can give themselves opportunities to use the putter.
The leader in Greens in Regulation gained in the field is Alex Smalley (+3300 BetMGM). Smalley’s ball-striking also keeps him in the top five for proximity to the hole on approach. Another player of interest is Emiliano Grillo (+2800 BetMGM). Grillo sits in the top five of this field for Strokes Gained: Approach and GIRs gained. A better putter than Smalley, he already has a win on the PGA TOUR this season. I mentioned Denny McCarthy (+1400 Bet MGM), the tournament betting favorite, but can his ball-striking keep up with players like Grillo and Smalley?
Emiliano Grillo wins Charles Schwab Challenge
McCarthy has a runner-up finish at the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday and three top 10s in his last six starts. He fits the narrative of a first-time winner. Can McCarthy create enough chances? Poston gained 13 strokes against the field tee-to-green in 2022. The year before, Lucas Glover aided his win by gaining over seven strokes against the field on approach. Ball-striking plays a major role and Denny leaves us with some doubt.
Sitting just below McCarthy on the betting board is Indiana native Adam Schenk (+2800 Bet MGM). He is ranked top seven in both GIRs gained and SG: Approach. Equally important, he is also ranked fourth in birdie-or-better percentage. That means Schenk can convert opportunities. He closed with a 66 on Sunday at the Rocket Mortgage Classic to finish seventh.
Adam Schenk sinks a 40-foot birdie at Rocket Mortgage
The last six winners of the John Deere Classic played the week before on the PGA TOUR. Follow Schenk’s fluid flatstick and his Midwestern connection to the region. McCarthy can fill up the cup, but don’t slight Schenk’s putter. He has gained positive strokes in six of his last eight starts on the greens. Schenk’s ability to score is what will ultimately send him into the winner’s circle on Sunday.
Keith Stewart is a five-time award winning PGA Professional who covers the PGA TOUR and LPGA from a betting perspective. Founder of Read The Line, he is also published by Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. Follow Keith Stewart on Twitter.