So here’s the plan. For a total outlay of just 12 points, we can back six players each-way, all at decent enough odds to ensure that one place will ensure an overall profit. First up, SCOTT VERPLANK, who is effectively about the same standard as those market leaders, yet twice their odds because his recent form is inferior. To be fair, its hardly terrible anyway, with a final round 62 to reach the top-10 on his latest start. There is no clear consensus about which type of player is best suited to Deere Run, but the most important stats over the years have been driving accuracy and scrambling. Scott is amongst the best in both categories, and its no surprise to see that his only previous attempt in this event saw him produce four sub-70 rounds to finish 12th.
Similar reasons with regard to stats inform my selection of CHARLIE WI, MATT KUCHAR, JASON DUFNER and JERRY KELLY, all of whom are at least 50/1. Wi‘s neat and tidy, accurate game has made him an increasingly consistent performer on the PGA Tour. Prior to the US Open, the experienced Korean was amongst the favourites for events of this stature after registering three top-10s amongst a series of decent efforts. Having finished 4th behind Perry last year, it would be no surprise to see Charlie bounce back.
Kuchar was also in form before missing the US Open cut, finishing 5th behind Tiger at Memorial. That Bethpage failure is easily forgiven, because a short-hitter like Kuchar was always likely to struggle in those conditions. His best from five Deere Run visits is just 13th, but I reckon the layout suits his talents, and his form over the past twelve months suggests slight improvement from his previous level.
Kelly has excellent course form credentials, having finished in the top-20 on all three previous visits. Jerry is never easy to catch right, but he has already won a title in 2009 and registered a couple of further top-10s. Courses where the importance of accuracy is emphasised tend to suit him, and 14th in last month’s Memorial is good enough form to warrant consideration in this markedly weaker company.
At 80/1, Dufner is no forlorn hope to land his first ever PGA Tour victory, like four of the last nine JD Classic winners. This has been by far Dufner‘s best season to date, registering four top-10 starts, including three of his last seven. He has been driving very accurately all year, and has shown good form on this course previously when finishing 6th two years ago.
Before getting to my final selection, a few words about the other outsiders to make my shortlist. Briny Baird has twice made the top-5 at Deere Run, and this accurate player looks a solid bet on the finishing position markets, if not the outright due to his legendary lack of bottle. Heath Slocum has ideal conditions, if he can move on from some dire 2009 form, and equally Bob Estes, Brian Davis, Scott McCarron and Kevin Sutherland all have the game to be there or thereabouts on this course. Chris Riley, a former Ryder Cup player and ace scrambler, could be worth a look at 150/1 having made the top-5 here three times at the start of this century.
Instead though, I’m going for former shock PGA winner SHAUN MICHEEL, who has shown signs of returning to form over the past few weeks. Top-25 finishes at the Quail Hollow Championship, European Open and Texas Open, all during May, are pretty decent efforts against strong fields, not least the first-named which is one of the most prestigious of the year. It may be that Shaun is putting in a bit extra as his exemptions as a former major winner dry up. If so, he could come into the argument on a course where he finished 5th in 2000.
Good Luck!