As golf courses go, TPC Deere Run and Royal St. Georges could not be more different. The John Deere Classic is a trademark American PGA Tour venue. Plenty of summer sunshine in the Midwest and a course that yields plenty of birdies.
Players take it deep quickly in the Quad Cities. Paul Goydos shot 59 in the first round in 2010 and Michael Kim shot 27-under par to win by eight shots in 2019.
Every player prepares for a major differently, some players prefer to take a week off to rest before ramping up for one of the four biggest weeks of the year. Others prefer to stay in rhythm by playing an event the week before.
Many of the top players have elected to fly over to the UK a week early and play the Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club. That disparity is reflected in the strength of field, the Scottish Open has a 424 strength of field that includes Jon Rahm, Rory Mcilroy, Justin Thomas, and other top players and awards 56 world ranking points to the winner.
The John Deere is the complete opposite, the event has a 122 strength of field and rewards half as many world ranking points to the champion.
Daniel Berger is the highest ranked player in a field that includes just four of the world’s top 50. Berger is the favorite this week, and he believes the best major preparation is getting into contention at an event that is far less pressure packed than The Open Championship.
“I think I've had two wins and a couple top 5s and a bunch of chances to win, so I always feel like as much as it's an event to kind of get ready for next week. I've played well in the lead-up events to majors,” Berger said. “It's just kind of stress-free, and sometimes that leads into good golf.”
Links golf is the exact opposite of the target practice that goes on week-to-week on Tour. But Berger believes that he doesn’t need a links course to practice the types of shots needed to win the claret jug.
“I am typically a lower flighted golf ball player, so it's not much of an adjustment for me. If anything it's tougher for me to hit the ball higher in the air,” Berger said. “I've played well here before, and I think the golf course suits me very well. I'm excited to play a course that I enjoy coming to.”
There is one spot in the Open Championship up for grabs this week, as the highest finisher who is not already exempt will head to Royal St. Georges next week. Defending champion Dylan Frittelli didn’t even know that there was a spot available, and he’s not sure if he has enough luggage to make the trip straight from Quad Cities to the UK.
“I'm going to try and win, go play the Open Championship. It's obviously one of the biggest events we play, and I've enjoyed the three that I've played in so far,” Frittelli said. “Now that you tell me we have that spot, maybe I'll try a little bit harder and finish first instead of second or third instead of fourth if the top three guys are exempt already.”