Lowdown:

The PGA Tour heads to Illinois this week for the John Deere Classic. Zach Johnson defends the title and there’s a final chance for someone to secure a spot in the Open Championship.

It may not be the most significant event on the PGA Tour schedule in terms of prize money or Fed-Ex Cup points, but there’s a Major incentive on offer. The winner of the tournament, if not already exempt, will receive a spot in the Open Championship at Muirfield.

This tournament began life in 1971 as the Quad Cities Open and the first two instalments were won by Deane Beman. John Deere took over as title sponsor in 1999 and have remained since then.

Steve Stricker is something of a specialist in this event. He won three times consecutively from 2009 to 2011. Last year Zach Johnson took the title, coming through a scrappy playoff against Troy Matteson. On the first extra hole, both men made double bogey before Johnson composed himself to win with a birdie on the second sudden-death hole.

Johnson is back to defend his title but will face strong competition from a field that includes Steve Stricker, Louis Oosthuizen and Keegan Bradley.

The course at TPC Deere run in Illinois was designed by DA Weibring in 1999 but it was remodelled by the PGA Tour in 2007. It has been host to the John Deere Classic since 2000. The course is located near the Rock River and the valley it creates affects a number of holes here.

There’s been significant rainfall in the area over previous weeks, but the forecast is for warm and dry weather this week. As this is a course that tends to produce low scoring (see Paul Goydos’ 59 in 2010,) we could be in for some impressive numbers this time round.

Venue: TPC Deere Run, Silvis, Illinois
Date: Jul 11-14
Course stats: par 71, 7,257 yards
Purse: $4,600,000 Winner: $828,000
Defending Champion: Zach Johnson (-20)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 11 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 8pm
Friday 12 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Saturday 13 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Sunday 14 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 8pm

Player Watch:
Steve Stricker – Three time champion with an average score of 65.75 in his last 16 rounds at Deere Run. He hasn’t played since a top-10 finish in the US Open.

Louis Oosthuizen – The talented South African is back on course after struggling for fitness. He’ll be looking to prove he’s fully recovered this week.

Jimmy Walker – He’s having a great season and bounced back from a lean stretch with a tied second at The Greenbrier last week. Look for him to produce another solid performance this time out.

Key hole: 16th. A par 3 of just 158 yards, it’s all carry to a bluff sitting 40 feet above the Rock River. The front of the putting surface is guarded by a shale outcropping and a large bunker.

Where next?
European Tour
Scottish Open preview