John Deere Classic experts' picks

July, 8, 2014
Jul 8
12:56
PM ET

Each week of the season, our experts share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

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This week, the PGA Tour is at TPC Deere Run for the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Illinois.


Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Zach Johnson
If this guy isn't on your fantasy team this week, you should quit the league. The past five times he's played his "home" event, four of his finishes were: third, two runner-ups and a win. The only way he doesn't make the top five would be if a swarm of buffalo descended on the course and declared anarchy.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Steve Stricker
A part-timer now on the PGA Tour, the 47-year-old Wisconsin native is still a major threat at TPC Deere Run, where he won three consecutive titles from 2009 through 2011. In 2010, he set the tournament scoring record with a 26-under-par total of 258.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Steve Stricker
In the past five years, Stricker won the tournament three straight times and in his other two appearances was in the top 10.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Jordan Spieth
One start as a pro at TPC Deere Run, one victory. Not a bad percentage. (Sure, he also finished T-58 there, but that was way back when he was an amateur ... in 2012!) Spieth has finished outside the top 20 on the PGA Tour just once since before the Masters, so you know he's always ready to challenge for the title.


Birdie Buster

Collins: Michael Thompson
Finally some good golf is coming his way. After missing two cuts in a row, Thompson had a nice week last week at Greenbrier, finishing just outside the top 10. The hardest part is trying not to think about getting into the Open Championship. Having seen this man in action up close, I believe he can play well and compartmentalize at the same time.

Evans: Billy Hurley III
The former naval officer held a 2-shot lead last week going into the final round at the Greenbrier Classic before shooting a 73 on Sunday to finish in a tie for fourth. But it was good enough to earn him a place at Hoylake for his first Open Championship. This comes after a tie for eighth at the Quicken Loans National. John Deere marks Hurley's fifth consecutive week on tour.

Harig: Jordan Spieth
The defending champion is itching for his second PGA Tour win, and he's given himself numerous chances. Spieth has been a frequent contender this year, including at the Masters and Players Championship. Since missing the cut in Houston, Spieth has been in the top 20 in seven of his eight tournaments.

Maguire: Ben Martin
With his third third-place finish of the season at the Quicken Loans National, the up-and-down Martin had made seven straight cuts before getting the weekend off at the Greenbrier.


Super Sleeper

Collins: Chris Smith
All kidding aside, this is a movie waiting to happen, regardless of the ending (although you know what I'm wishing for). If there's one guy out here grinding who deserves some good things to happen, it's Smith. Time heals all wounds right? "No. It doesn't. I think time changes wounds more than it heals them," he said in an interview last year. Fate owes you one great week. I want this to be it.

Evans: Bud Cauley
After earning $1.7 million with six top-10s in his rookie year of 2012, the 24-year-old former University of Alabama star lost full status on tour last year with less than $500,000 in earnings. But last week at Greenbrier, he took his best finish in two years with a tie for fourth, capped off by a hole-in-one on the 72nd hole for a final-round 64. A win this week at the John Deere would earn him a spot at Hoylake.

Harig: Charles Howell III
It would be fitting if Howell, who has just two career victories, won this event, having qualified for the Open Championship next week through the Official World Golf Ranking, but turning down the spot for "family reasons."

Maguire: Steve Stricker
The affable golfer from Wisconsin only makes this category because his PGA Tour starts have been few and far between this year. We're now in the seventh month of the year, and the John Deere Classic will just be Stricker's ninth official start in 2014. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 since he started his stretch of three straight wins here in 2009.


Winner

Collins: Steve Stricker
It's been over two years since his last win (Hyundai TOC in January, 2012). This year, with only two top-10s, even with no missed cuts, the pressure to win has got to be mounting.

Evans: Jordan Spieth
It's hard to believe after the last 12 months of capturing the attention of the golf world that Spieth's victory here last year is his only PGA Tour win. He's a much more accomplished player now than when he won the John Deere as a 19-year-old in a sudden-death playoff with David Hearn and Zach Johnson.

Harig: Zach Johnson
Johnson lost in a playoff last year, and he has been among the top 3 in four of the past five years. A virtual local, this is one of his favorite events, and it has often served as a nice springboard for him at the Open Championship.

Maguire: Bud Cauley
He did the ultimate walk-off last week at the Greenbrier with an ace at No. 18 on Sunday that put cash money into the pockets of fans sitting greenside and gave himself a T-4 finish. He barely missed out on that Open Championship spot, but that all changes at the John Deere, where good karma pays off this week with his first PGA Tour win and a spot next week at Royal Liverpool.

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