Deere Pebble Beach, Thank you! ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ


Rocket man

After four years, four months, and 29 days, Rickie Fowler is back in the winner's circle. The popular PGA TOUR star has earned his sixth career victory. For Read The Line that is five wins in nine weeks! Every win feels good, but I think we all would admit this one was special. Fowler's comeback triggers an emotional connection to the audience. Rickie was ranked 185 in the OWGR a little over a year ago. He's back on top of the game and that's great for golf.

Nothing runs like a Deere

God bless Zach Johnson. The current Ryder Cup Captain does all he can to try and build up the John Deere Classic. The PGA TOUR's annual trek to the Quad Cities region generally doesn't draw a great collection of the world's best players. The average strength of field as measured by the OWGR is 124 over the past decade. If we take a closer look and limit the parameters to the past five years, the strength of field average drops below 100 (98). To put this in perspective, the Rocket Mortgage earned 244 OWGR points, Travelers (403), and the US Open (421).

The favorites in the field are Cameron Young, Russell Henley and Denny McCarthy. For McCarthy and Young this week is a golden opportunity to secure their first win. Six of the last nine champions of the John Deere were first time winners on TOUR. Four first timers in the last five years. That list includes Bryson DeChambeau (2017) and Jordan Spieth (2013). Before you quickly click on Ludvig Aberg, let's take a little deeper look at the Deere.

We can start with the forecast because it is one for scoring. The heat can get trapped in the middle of the country this time of year. The field of 156 players will be playing in optimal conditions with temperatures in the high 70s. We don't expect much wind and there's a small chance of some rain over the weekend. The forecast could change, but the region has been reasonably dry. Only 2.44" of rain have fallen across the last five weeks. They do expect a little rain early in the week, but nothing too concerning.

The slight amount of precipitation will only help the scoring reputation of this event. The average winning score at TPC Deere Run over the past decade is 21 under par. With all those low scores, it may surprise you where the most strokes were gained by the winners.

  • The average winner's pre-tournament odds over the last ten years were +7800 (The last five averaged +11400).
  • There was no John Deere Classic in 2020.

TPC Deere Run hosts the PGA TOUR with a par 71 7,289-yard layout. Winding through the woods this TPC test will separate the field based upon ball striking. The greens average 5,500 sq/ft in size and are covered in Bentgrass. Seventy-six bunkers are spread throughout the scorecard and each green site has at least one. Water comes into play on three holes none of which is more crucial than the pond left of the green on 18. The GCSAA report relayed the rough will up around 4".

There's a premium on accuracy at TPC Deere Run. You must keep the ball in-between the trees to score. Twenty-one under par doesn't come as easily as we have witnessed over the past two weeks. The historic cutline for the past five years is two under par. Consider the leaders through 36 holes are sitting at 12 or 13 under par and you can see how the field gets separated. Those top 65 and ties who do make the weekend will be competing for $7.4 million dollars (First place $1.332M).

More important than the money are the FedEx Cup points. With just five events to go, only the top 70 get in the playoffs. Players on the periphery looking in have a wonderful chance to gain those important points. The TV coverage won't mention the points race until Wyndham in the final week but trust me these guys are thinking about it. With so many future schedule questions and qualifying unknowns, getting inside that top 70 can really change a career path.

Keep an eye on those players who need to start resurrecting their season. They have a month to go and the pressure of facing relegation to the Korn Ferry Tour doesn't sit well with those who have sat at the adult table for a awhile. It's not hyperbole to say we will have drama at the Deere. Whether it is a new star or another career comeback, every week on TOUR gives us something special... like another chance to win!

John Deere on TV:

  • Thursday - Friday 7:45am - 7:00pm (ESPN+), 4:00 - 7:00pm (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday 7:30am - 6:00pm (ESPN+), 1:00 - 3:00pm (Golf Channel), 3:00 - 6:00pm (CBS)
  • Sunday 7:30am - 6:00pm (ESPN+), 1:00 - 3:00pm (Golf Channel), 3:00 - 6:00pm (CBS)
  • Complete details on โ€‹PGATOUR.comโ€‹โ€‹
  • All times EDT.

John Deere starts in...

Count down to 2023-07-06T10:30:00.000Zโ€‹


Identifying trends

Annual scoring at the John Deere Classic is incredibly consistent. Eight of the last ten winners have won the tournament with a final score between 19 and 22 under par. The key to hitting that sweet spot revolves around how those winners score at TPC Deere Run. This tree lined parkland layout won't ask you for unlimited power or crazy shot making. Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker have won a combined four of these tournaments since 2009.

It sounds vanilla, but simple ball striking gets it done year after year. No club is more simple than the putter. The last five winners have gained an average of seven strokes (6.8) against the field with the flatstick. With very average sized greens, good putters who secure plenty of GIRs can distance themselves. Every other strokes gained category is about even for those five champions.

Thirteen holes have a birdie rate over 15%. Conversely, only four holes carry a bogey rate under 15%. Get your approach game in order and you can win in this field without a true favorite. The field secures approximately five percent more GIRs than the TOUR average. Considering 41% of the approach shots are attempted from under 150 yards we know why. Delivering a winner this week is challenging because all PGA TOUR players should be great from that range.

If the putter is one differentiation point, par 4 scoring is another. The collection of 4s at TPC Deere Run range from the mid 300s to over 500 yards. Scoring takes a combination of smart driving and aggressiveness with your irons. Driving accuracy is favored over distance at the John Deere. We see this in the historical data and on the leaderboard. Our outrights are excellent SG:OTT guys and when they do miss the fairway it is only by a small margin. TPC Deere Run isn't super tight, but each tee shot bends decreasing the size of the landing area. If you get on the wrong side of the fairway, some short approach shots can get blocked out.

Four rounds averaging five under par is a fair amount of scoring. The tightness of this parkland layout does put pressure on your short game. The winner will need 24 or 25 birdies to win. TPC Deere Run has trapped more than one contender over the years. JT Poston gained just under six strokes against the field around the green last year en route to winning. Who could forget Jordan's bunker hole out to win one of his two Deere titles? The last three winners have gained an average of 4.8 strokes with their short game.

I don't want to glance over greens in regulation. Our last two winners on the TOUR hit well over 80% of the GIRs (Bradley 83%, Fowler 85%). JT Poston hit 60 of 72 (83%) GIRs in winning last year. Get the ball on the green and putt. It sounds easy, but we forget the basics when we come to a typical TPC layout. Our outrights have shown great recent form accumulating as many birdie opportunities as possible. The last six winners of the John Deere have played the week prior on the PGA TOUR. In my mind, that's one of the most impactful notes we can consider this week.

Let's get behind a couple of great ball strikers who can fill up the cup. What better way to celebrate the Fourth, than with our fifth win in ten weeks!

Outright winners - John Deere Classic

In four starts at the John Deere Classic, Adam Schenk has finished in the top 6 twice. Fresh off a sensational Sunday 66 at the Rocket Mortgage, Schenk returns to one of his favorite TOUR stops. The Indiana native has been very supportive of the Quad Cities event and that mindset has brought great success. Ranked fourth in the field for BoB% and fifth for SG:APP, Adam will convert most of his birdie chances. His four top 10s since the runner-up finish at the Valspar make him "Sunday ready" to win for the first time on the PGA TOUR.

Eric Cole has over 50 professional mini tour wins. Just two weeks ago following a top 25 finish at the Travelers, Cole drove eight hours to Pittsburgh and played in the Frank B Fuhrer Jr Invitational. He won the $20k first place prize and donated it to charity. Coleโ€™s putter can help him win on any course and his approach game has been hot lately. He has eight top 25 finishes in 18 starts this year. What better place for a first time winner like Cole than another birdiefest on the summer schedule of the PGA TOUR?


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There's a first time for everything

The legendary Pebble Beach Golf Links have hosted 13 USGA Championships. That list includes six US Opens, five US Amateurs, and two US Women's Amateurs. Twelve past champions have traveled to the Monterrey Peninsula for the 78th US Women's Open. The favorite in the field of 156 players is none other than Rose Zhang. The sensational Stanford standout returns close to school for the season's third major championship.

For the first time in Pebble Beach's 104-year history, they will host our women's national championship. With a scorecard measuring 6,505 yards and playing to a par of 72, the world's best women will be competing for over $10 million dollars. Most golf fans are familiar with these picturesque Pacific Ocean holes. Some of the game's greatest champions have won here and I believe one more will raise the trophy on Sunday.

The 2023 LPGA season has been a disjointed one. Just two weeks ago, these women were 3,000 miles away in New Jersey competing for another major championship. After just a week off, they are now across the country back in championship mode. I don't know how this calendar came together, but those players who have been hot have a wonderful opportunity to play two major championships in just three weeks!

Designed in 1919, Pebble Beach is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 courses in the world. Most amateurs and professionals who have played there are consistently distracted by the sea. The true test of Pebble Beach comes on the cliffs. The average green size is approximately 3,500 sq/ft. That is very small by tour standards. Accuracy will be important on approach. Consider this is also a US Open. Those small Poa Annua covered targets will be surrounded by heavy rough.

For the second time in three weeks, 30 of the top 30 in the Rolex Rankings are competing. The USGA sets the cutline at the top 60 and ties for the weekend. The Par 72 landscape has four par 5s, four par 3s, and 10 par 4s. Covered in 116 bunkers, nine holes frame the Pacific Coast. The rest of the figure eight layout travels inland for the other nine tests. Playing along the coast can expose the competitors to the elements. The forecast for the week is moderate.

  • Temperatures are expected in the high 50s on Thursday through Sunday.
  • There is no rain in the forecast, which is great, but the wind will be blowing in the 15-20 mph range off the water which is why the cooler temperatures.
  • The Monterrey region has been dry. According to the GCSAA report, Pebble Beach hasn't felt rain in 28 days.

The Superintendent seems content with the conditions. The average winning score of the winners over the last decade is seven under par. I realize these are all different venues, but the same Association is running the championship with a very similar goal in mind. Each player will need a careful balance of birdie acumen and bogey avoidance. It is worth noting, this venue will distract you. I'll break down the skill set in the next section, but playing Pebble is special. It is easy to get swept away in the atmosphere.

Combine the moment with major championship pressure and a majority of the field will eliminate themselves. We're going to follow the leader(s); those women who have played very well recently and contended. Their proximity to the pressure gives them an edge in this history making moment.

US Women's Open on TV:

  • Thursday - Friday 4:00 - 6:00pm (Peacock), 6:00 - 11:00pm (USA Network)
  • Saturday 3:00 - 9:00pm (Peacock), 3:00 - 9:00pm (NBC)
  • Sunday 3:00 - 9:00pm (Peacock), 3:00 - 9:00pm (NBC)
  • Complete details on โ€‹LPGA.comโ€‹โ€‹
  • All times EDT.

US Women's Open starts in...

Count down to 2023-07-06T13:00:00.000Zโ€‹


Prime time player

We will have major championship golf in prime time on the east coast again. The coverage schedule extends to 11:00pm on Thursday and Friday and 9:00pm over the weekend. With one of golf's biggest trophies on the table, what will it take to bring it home? When you consider the list of men's US Open winners, what is the first characteristics we consider? Jack and Tiger make us think of power, but Graeme McDowell (2010) and Tom Kite (1992) won here too. Across those four major champions, I believe patience is the common denominator.

Pebble Beach has small target greens. Set alongside the cliffs of Carmel Bay, each hole tests a player's ability to control trajectory and spin. I create weekly spreadsheets for the LPGA due to the lack of statistical data available online. In looking through my notes, I'm starting the outright list with the best green getters. Hitting greens in regulation is a priority along with proximity to the hole. Our women winners are the best at accumulating more GIRs than their competition.

I mentioned the course contains 116 bunkers. Short game skill keeps your championship round on course. With such small surfaces, each contender will be tested from the rough and the sand around these green complexes. Scoring on the short par 4 fourth, and all four par 5s will be with your wedge game as well. Some weeks we can ignore around the green play; this week is not one of them.

US Opens are well-rounded tests. Gary Woodland gained 10.7 strokes against the field from T2G in the 2019 US Open. Ball striking will be at a premium with the wind blowing and chilly temperatures. Only the best contact players can adjust their carry in different climates. Each woman will need to adjust after a couple of practice rounds. Competitors who have great familiarity with the layout will have a considerable advantage.

Pebble Beach has an eclectic group of par 4s. From the short fourth to the brutal stretch alongside the sea of eight, nine, and ten. Power combined with grace captures birdies. Very similar to the great preview Baltusrol provided us a couple of weeks ago, the best par 4 players will excel in Monterrey too. One other key to scoring at Pebble Beach are the par 5s. Two and six are short and need to be taken advantage of early in the round. Fourteen is an uphill beast of a hole with one of the most difficult greens on the course to hit.

Minjee Lee mastered the US Open a year ago with incredible off the tee and approach play. The winner this week will need her putter. Pine Needles greens were outrageously undulating. Pebble's greens simply sit on slopes. Get to the correct section and you can attack the hole. Tiger torched the field in 2000 because he kept making putts in the five-to-10-foot range. One lady will follow in his footsteps and make her fair share as well.

The 2021 US Women's Open was played 120 miles away at the Olympic Club. Both courses are affected by the Pacific Ocean. They sit on hillsides and will be played under similar championship conditions. Very rarely do we have two major sites sit so close in proximity of time and location. Throw in two weeks ago and how each woman handled herself in the challenging weather and course characteristics at the KPMG. Those women who fared well in each of those examples are a perfect match for Pebble's premiere in the US Women's Open!

Outright winners - US Women's Open

Rose Zhang was playing in the NCAA National Championship just two months ago. She won the individual title for the second time and her first professional event in New Jersey just a couple weeks later. Two weeks ago, she finished eighth at Baltusrol at the KPMG. Zhang played at nearby Stanford and owns more course experience than any of the tournament favorites. She holds the course record at Pebble Beach (63) which she just set in 2022. What seemed like hyperbole a month ago is really coming into focus.

Six years ago, Leona Maguire was the best amateur player in the world. With two LPGA wins, Maguire is poised for the next step. Two weeks ago, she held the 54-hole lead at Baltusrol on the strength of eight straight tournament rounds in the 60s on tour. She contends with a top 20 SG:TOT skill set. Short game will be a big differentiator and Leona can lead with her wedge. Trending in every possible way, her talent and recent form are about to collide in a major way out on the Monterey Peninsula.

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