John Deere Classic betting preview and tips from Ben Coley

Austin Cook
Austin Cook

Wesley Bryan and Austin Cook head a five-pronged attack on the John Deere Classic from golf expert Ben Coley.

Recommended bets

1pt e.w. Wesley Bryan at 40/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Austin Cook at 40/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Blayne Barber at 200/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)

1pt e.w. Meen-Whee Kim at 150/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Dylan Meyer at 160/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)

  • For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, click here

The state of Illinois has voted democrat in the last seven presidential elections. Its founding father, Wayne Campbell, knows only one way to dress: ripped denim, black tee, personalised baseball cap. And its major, the John Deere Classic, is no less comfortable in its own skin. The Open is next week? Fine, we'll put on a charter. Jordan Spieth can't play? Fair enough, perhaps we'll catch him next year.

It's that unusual level of self-awareness, plus the submissiveness of TPC Deere Run and those adorable children's toys on the tee boxes, which combine to make this event an understated highlight of the PGA Tour calendar. Next week is next week, and it promises much, but it can also wait. First, let's have some unabashed fun.

To win here, you don't need to worry too much about the driver. This par 71 course is short but not tight, and it's reasonably common for a player to find upwards of 50 of the 56 fairways. Instead, it's about precision approach shots, often with a wedge, and putting together a score in the region of 20-under; seven of the last 10 champions have matched or bettered that figure and nothing less than 18-under has been enough.

With this formula in mind, plus the nature of the field - there is an unusual majority of what you might term plodders, in place of the absent bombers - it's no surprise that champions tend to come from the same club. It's fairways, wedges, greens all the way even if Jordan Spieth's brazen brilliance meant he eschewed such a policy for the second of his two victories. There are exceptions to every rule.

Proximity to the hole is arguably the most useful stat, given that it measures how close approaches from the fairway - note the subtle emphasis - end up, and that was to some extent the case last year. Granted, the winner Bryson DeChambeau rode a hot putter, but it's notable that Rick Lamb was the surprise package and among the most impressive of his modest season-long rankings was 20th in proximity.

Outside of the favourites, all solid but hard to separate and only the defending champion boasting a strike-rate worthy of the odds right now, the best fit on paper may well be Wesley Bryan and he heads up the staking plan.

The former YouTube star has been eighth and third in two starts here so we don't need any further evidence that the course should fit - we know that it does. However, it's comforting to see that he was 35th in proximity last season and that, despite struggling for much of this one, his approach work has still been strong and sees him ranked 23rd.

Bryan's issue during the early part of the campaign in particular was the driver, because any player who is so lacking in power off the tee cannot afford to be also lacking in accuracy. It's still something of an issue, but less so here than anywhere and it's perhaps significant that his most accurate display off the tee so far this year came when defending his title in the RBC Heritage, at a course where he is clearly comfortable.

Wes Bryan can double his PGA Tour tally

Like Hilton Head, Deere Run is a positional challenge which does not require driver to even be included in the bag, even for a short hitter like Bryan, although there have been signs recently that he's getting there anyway and can avoid the big miss.

Five cuts made in succession have put an end to a run of seven missed in eight starts and he is plainly in better form than he was one year ago, when threatening to steal this title with a sensational final round and instead settling for third place, by a distance his standout performance of a low-key summer.

Bryan is among the best on the circuit on and around the greens - a point underlined by season-long rankings of 23rd and 15th respectively - and as well as his performances here, also went very close to winning in Illinois on the Web.com Tour.

Undoubtedly, though, the case revolves around his comfort levels at Deere Run, where last year he said: "It's one of those golf courses that really fights my eye.

"It's a course coming back to now I actually have a little confidence level. It's a course that I know, whereas most weeks, at least any rookie year, it's been the first time seeing the golf courses."

Although less appealing when it comes to his proximity statistics, the case for Austin Cook appears equally strong and he too looks solid each-way material.

This rookie got his season off to a brilliant start, winning the RSM Classic on account of his splendidly accurate tee-to-green game and quality putting. Like Bryan, length is sometimes the issue, and like Bryan, he's therefore at his most dangerous on courses such as this one.

Since that success, Cook has struggled just a little, but that's not uncommon. Take Aaron Wise as an example - after his superb victory in Texas, one which came on the heels of second place to Jason Day at Quail Hollow, the obvious explanation for a sequence of missed cuts is that it happens: players work hard to win, they win, and now they have to start again.

Austin Cook
Click on the image for Sky Bet's latest odds

Wise hinted last week that he's not far away from snapping that run but, while he's by far the greater long-term project, in the here and now it's Cook who has come through the other side and that's why he's considered the better bet despite a marginally shorter price.

Three starts ago he was sixth at TPC Southwind and last week he finished fifth in the Greenbrier and as a player who holds his form well - he'd been playing well for some time prior to that Sea Island triumph - there's no reason he can't keep moving forward on what is his course debut.

Cook's iron play is his weakness if you take his season-long figures at face value, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with it in either of those recent top-six finishes, nor when he won with a field-leading tee-to-green display last November.

Providing he's solid in that department, Cook can be expected to show an immediate liking for this straightforward, low-scoring layout and perhaps earn his second title of what's been an impressive campaign so far.

Next on the list is Blayne Barber, who looks to be turning a corner and should be suited by this terrain having been a solid 40th on debut two years ago.

A high-class amateur and winner on the Web.com Tour, Barber has struggled to complete the transition to PGA Tour level but still has some high-class form to his name, notably a play-off defeat at Sea Island and third place at the Honda Classic.

Both events are played in the area of the United States in which this Floridian is surely most comfortable, but they're also on courses where his lack of power isn't a hindrance and that's certainly true of Deere Run.

Tellingly, he was eighth for proximity last season - a hugely eye-catching position for one whose form was very much in and out - and he's maintained similar standards this time despite a troublesome campaign.

Back in January, Barber's caddie suffered life-threatening injuries after a fall at a restaurant and Barber's focus in the aftermath was in the welfare of his friend and colleague, who appears to be doing well as he takes the first steps on what is reportedly a long road to full recovery.

Barber can be forgiven for failing to produce his best golf in the early months of the year as a result but three cuts made in succession, with 11 rounds of par or better from 12 played, speak to a player who is now able to focus on his day job and perhaps fulfil his definite potential.

Courses like this are important when it comes to bagging the points needed to maintain a card and Barber is precisely the type of player who pops up in this event and secures a last-minute Open invite.

Meen-Whee Kim will have been disappointed not to build on a strong start last week, but doubtless took enjoyment in Kevin Na's win and could well take another step forward himself.

A month ago, Kim travelled to his native Korea for a match play event on the Asian Tour and won, securing his first title since he got the better of Na, again in Korea, way back in 2012.

Since then, the 26-year-old has hinted at what he can do only in bursts but he showed late last year that he can find form overseas and bring it back to the United States, as he followed fourth place in the CJ Cup with a play-off defeat in Las Vegas.

Having been second after round one and fifth at halfway in the Greenbrier, there were hints that he might do something similar (despite a missed cut inbetween) but having been third here on his last visit, there's every hope that Deere Run may be the answer.

Kim is a deadly putter whose season-long proximity stats are good enough to make him a factor here, and this sweet-swinging youngster is worth siding with at three-figure prices.

Finally, Dylan Meyer completes the staking plan.

The bespectacled youngster turned professional with an excellent 20th place in the US Open, and two starts later bagged another top-20 finish at the Quicken Loans National as he seeks to earn special temporary membership on the PGA Tour.

We've seen the damage these classy graduates can do courtesy of Joaquin Niemann over the last few months, to the extent that the Chilean isn't far off favouritism here, and while Meyer may not be quite in the same bracket he does look to have an extremely bright future.

Meyer's story is a fascinating one but the the purposes of this preview, it's the quality of his recent play and the fact that he studied at the University of Illinois which place him firmly on the radar.

Spieth and DeChambeau both won their first titles here, while in 2012 local boy Luke Guthrie was fifth and Scott Brown seventh, both taking advantage of invites. More recently, Jon Rahm was well inside the top 20 and Meyer, who gained some valuable experience when playing solidly enough despite missing the cut last year, is chanced at a big price.

Posted at 2145 BST on 10/07/18.

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