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

Steve Stricker is looking to join an exclusive club this week. He has won this tournament three years in a row and, if he can make it four, he will join Young Tom Morris, Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and Tiger Woods as the only men to win a PGA Tour-recognised event four times consecutively.

Last year Stricker won at Deere Run by a single shot from Kyle Stanley. He managed that with consecutive birdies on the 71st and 72nd holes. The year before, the American opened with a 60 but still sat one off the lead going into Friday’s play as Paul Goydos fired a first round of 59.

This is a track that tends to witness low scoring. In 2010 Stricker’s winning total of 26-under-par was a tournament record. Since 2000 the event has not been won with a score worse than 16-under-par.

The course at TPC Deere run in Illinois was designed by D.A. 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.

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, or first player in the top-5 not already exempt, will receive a spot in the Open Championship at Royal Lytham.

The event began life back in 1971 as the Quad Cities Open. Since then it has seen some notable winners, including Dave Stockton, Payne Stewart, Scott Hoch and Vijay Singh.

Venue: TPC Deere Run, Illinois
Date: Jul 12-15
Course stats: par 71, 7,257 yards
Purse: $4,600,000 Winner: $828,000
Defending Champion: Steve Stricker (-22)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 12 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Friday 13 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 8pm
Saturday 14 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 8pm
Sunday 15 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 8pm

Player Watch:
Steve Stricker – It’s very difficult to look past the three-time champion this week. He may not have had the best year so far in 2012, but still has four top 10 finishes to his name.

Ken Duke – He’s had a great year on the PGA Tour with top-10 finishes in every month since February. He was tied seventh last week at the Greenbrier.

Tim Clark – Coming back on to form after recovering from shoulder surgery, he was tied fourth in the recent Travelers Championship. The South African has a good record in this event – with a second place in 2007 his best finish.

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.