The PGA TOUR heads to Illinois this week as TPC Deere Run hosts the John Deere Classic . The course is a very gettable par 72 measuring at 7,258 yards with bentgrass greens. Much like last week, we have another birdie-fest on tap, so we should act accordingly when filling out our rosters.
I’ll be highlighting the best cash game/single-entry plays on the DraftKings main slate, but these players are often great options in any contest.
My analysis will frequently reference Strokes Gained, a set of proprietary metrics generated by the PGA TOUR using millions of data points to calculate how many shots on average it takes a player to get the ball in the hole from every distance and situation. Strokes Gained is now available in the FantasyLabs PGA Models.
There are a variety of Strokes Gained-related metrics, but the six main categories you need to know include:
- Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (SG: Off-the-Tee)
- Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: Approach)
- Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green (SG: Around-the-Green)
- Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: Putting)
- Strokes Gained: Ball-Striking (SG: Ball-Striking), which is SG: Off-the-Tee + SG: Approach
- Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (SG: Tee-to-Green), which is SG: Ball-Striking + SG: Around-the-Green
For more information on Strokes Gained data and how to use it, check out this article from Bryan Mears on The Action Network, which unpacks each of the above metrics in detail. I also recommend Chris Murphy’s Strokes Gained column after each round of that week’s PGA TOUR event, which highlights golfers to buy and fade, along with Matthew Vincenzi’s weekly “Stats That Matter” column, which highlights which Strokes Gained sub-metrics matter the most for a given course.
The following players listed are based on DraftKings scoring and pricing.
Russell Henley ($9,900 DraftKings)
Henley gets the nod from me this week as the preferred option at the top of the board. He just slightly edges out Kevin Streelman, who very uncharacteristically melted down in the second round of the Rocket Mortgage last week. This will be Henley’s third trip to TPC Deere Run, with the first two resulting in strong finishes (T-2, T-27.)
His game has been clicking on all cylinders over his previous two events, ranking second in this field in SG: Ball-Striking and third in total strokes gained. With Daniel Berger likely here for a tuneup before The Open and guys like Harman and Cam Davis a bit overpriced, I love starting with Henley in cash games this week.
Zach Johnson ($8,500 DraftKings)
Not much needs to be said here, as ZJ has been maybe the most consistent golfer at the JDC over the past decade. He had a stretch from 2011-17 where he went T-3, WIN, T-2, solo second, T-3, T-34 and T-5. Johnson absolutely loves TPC Deere Run and despite getting up there in age, we should still easily be able to count on a made the cut with some upside, which is nice to lock in on a cash game team.
Johnson’s ball-striking was superb at the Traveler’s his last time out and we know we can count on his short game every week. Don’t overthink this.
Jhonattan Vegas ($8,000 DraftKings)
Vegas has been locked in with his ball-striking recently, ranking No.1 in this field in SG: Off-the-Tee — a rather important statistic this week — as well as sitting 18th on Approach and 13th in total strokes gained as well. His history at this event reads pretty well, making four of five cuts with a T-3 in that stretch.
His DraftKings salary is a little deflated for whatever reason, and that’s something we can take advantage of this week as he has virtually no business being priced below guys like Ryan Moore, Sebastian Munoz or Troy Merritt. If Vegas drains a few putts this week he should be in contention come Sunday.
Charles Howell III ($7,900 DraftKings)
We’re going right back to the CH3 well this week after an extremely disappointing second round 75 led to a brutal missed cut at the Rocket Mortgage. I refuse to believe he’s as bad as he’s been playing and he should be able to grind out a made cut at a course where he’s had a ton of success.
Dating back to 2011 Howell has made cut in seven of eight appearances at the JDC, including two top-25s and two top-six finishes mixed in. He still ranks 23rd in this field in total strokes gained over his past 48 rounds, so I will take my chances at $7,900 that he finds his game this week.
Kyle Stanley ($7,900 DraftKings)
Stanley is another guy with stellar history at this event, making seven of his nine cuts since 2011 with five top-23 finishes, and a runner up. He’s quietly having a really strong season, ranking fifth in SG: Ball-Striking and 36th in total strokes gained over his past 48 rounds in this field. I see no reason to deviate from him at this price coming off six consecutive made cuts dating back to the Valspar in April.
Steve Stricker ($7,700 DraftKings)
Stricker primarily plays on the Champion’s Tour nowadays, but when he does tee it up at a PGA event he usually handles himself quite nicely. He’s made six of his nine cuts on the year with two of those misses being at THE PLAYERS and the U.S Open, so I think we can give him a pass. Did I mention this is a man who owned the John Deere THREE TIMES in his career? His Vegas numbers look strong and he’s made the cut in each of his past nine starts at TPC Deere Run. This one seems like a no brainer in cash games.
Adam Schenk ($6,900 DraftKings)
Schenk is a guy we should look to target when he’s on a run of good form, which is what he’s currently in the midst of, making four of his past five cuts. He normally does not boast a ton of upside, however, at an easy course in a bad field he’s been known to pop a few times. He’s played TPC Deere Run twice, missing the cut once and finishing T-6th his last time out.
Schenk is actually one of the better ball-strikers in this field, sitting 36th in SG: Off-the-Tee and 26th in SG: Approach over his past 48 rounds in this field. It may not be necessary to dip this low in cash games this week, but if you’re set on fitting in a guy like Daniel Berger you can certainly do worse in this range.
Pictured: Zach Johnson
Credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images