We had another first-time winner on the PGA Tour in 2015 last week at the Greenbrier Classic as Danny Lee won a four-man playoff in West Virginia. Lee, David Hearn, Kevin Kisner and Robert Streb -- not exactly household names -- were tied at 13-under after four rounds on the Old White TPC course. Lee got the win when he parred the second hole of the sudden-death playoff, eliminating Hearn after Kisner and Streb were bumped on the first playoff hole.
It was the third playoff in the six-year history of the Greenbrier Classic and the 14th on Tour this year. It was Kisner's third loss in a playoff in 2015 (RBC Heritage, Players Championship). Lee, Hearn, James Hahn and Greg Owen all earned spots in next week's British Open at St. Andrews with their finishes. Lee, who was born in South Korea but lives in New Zealand, is the ninth first-time winner on Tour this season. He's a former U.S. Amateur champion (2008).
Needless to say, I didn't have Lee on my radar. I did take the field at -650 against a Big 4 of Bubba Watson, Paul Casey, Patrick Reed and Louis Oosthuizen (+400). My winner was Webb Simpson, who had played well at that course previously but missed the cut. So did Bill Haas, and I had him with Simpson for a Top-10 finish. I hit on a Top 20 for Watson (-225) and Tiger Woods at -150 to make the cut (finished T32). Otherwise not much to talk about from the Greenbrier.
So before I get to this week's John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., I want to look at what a crazy few days of golf news we have had, and that's unusual in that sport. The big one was the torn ligament Rory McIlroy suffered in his ankle while playing soccer. He will miss this week's Scottish Open, and I don't see how he can play for quite a while. McIlroy, the world No. 1, is the defending champion at the British Open and PGA Championship. The last time the British Open was held at St. Andrews in 2010, McIlroy was third. McIlroy had been the favorite at Bovada for the Open, but now it's Jordan Spieth. McIlroy hasn't said he can't play there yet. There's no way.
Also newsy this week: the Grand Slam of Golf is being pulled from Donald Trump's course in Los Angeles in the wake of his comments, and Scott Stallings was suspended three months for a doping violation. Is this really golf!?
Usually the weakest fields of the year on Tour are the week before and after the British Open with all the travel, and there aren't many big names this week at the John Deere with most everyone over in Europe either playing in Scotland or preparing for St. Andrews. Spieth is playing this week, which is somewhat surprising to me. The highest finisher among the Top 5 this week who isn't otherwise exempt will qualify for the British Open (also four spots available at the Scottish Open). The John Deere charters a plane to fly guys across the pond for the Open in an attempt to get more guys to play at TPC Deere Run.
There is going to be plenty of scoring. Defending champion Brian Harman shot 22-under last year. Paul Goydos had a 59 here five years ago. Perhaps the most interesting name in the field is semi-retired Steve Stricker, who won this from 2009-11. He's the only guy to repeat here.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: John Deere Classic Favorites
To no surprise, Spieth is the heavy +300 Bovada favorite, but I'm saying right now I don't see him playing well this week. His thoughts will be at St. Andrews. I'm not sure it's such a bad thing for Spieth to miss the cut. He did get his first Tour win here in 2013 and was seventh in 2014.
Zach Johnson, who is from that area and on the board for the tournament, is +900. He loves this course, winning in 2012, coming the second the past two years and third in 2011. Johnson comes off a sixth at the Travelers Championship.
The favorites are rounded out by Kisner (+1400), Ryan Moore (+2500), Harris English and Stricker (both +3000). Kisner is way overdue for his first Tour win. He was 20th here a year ago. Moore was T7 here in 2014, his third straight Top 25 at the event. I'm not high on English (74th here last year) and you know about Stricker.
PGA Tour Picks: John Deere Classic Expert Betting Predictions
Not a ton of great prop options this week as the books likely gearing up for the British Open as well.
On the Top-10 props, I'll pass on Spieth (-350) but take Johnson (-135) Kisner (+125) and Justin Thomas (+300). Give me a Top 20 for Stricker (+125). Head-to-head, go with Johnson (+120) over Spieth (-155), Stricker (-120) over Harman (-110), Kisner (-130) over Moore (even), Tony Finau (-115) over Streb (-115), Thomas (-115) over English (-115), and Bo Van Pelt (-115) over Bryce Molder (-120). Go with a playoff as the winning margin at +275 as it has happened two of the past three years.
I am trying to think of a reason not to pick Johnson, but I simply can't come up with one. He's a horse for the course as they say in golf parlance.
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