John Deere Classic: The 18/1 Tour maiden who deserves an over-sized cheque

You mighn't be able to pick him out of a line-up, but Daniel Summerhays is edging closer to a first Tour win



With the world’s top players either chasing Olympic gold in Rio or dodging the Zika virus, a few Tour journeymen get their chance to shine at the John Deere Classic that tees off on Thursday.

Zach Johnson takes over the favourite’s mantle – and the type of price – usually reserved for Rory McIlroy, Jason Day & Jordan Spieth as he looks to capitalise on the chasing pack’s absence to try and secure his Ryder Cup spot next month.

There’s as much depth to the field as a Donald Trump campaign rally but here are the seven players you’re backing ahead of Thursday’s tee off.

1. Jerry Kelly

A dropped shot at the 14th cost the elder statesman of the Tour at least a play-off place at TPC River Highlands and Kelly has a decision to make come November, when the 49-year-old veteran is eligible for life on the Seniors Tour.

Kelly’s got the form in the book at Illinois with 36-4-3-17th place finishes in the last four years and is no back number to post a fifth Top 10 of the season if repeating last weekend’s form on what could be his lap-of-honour season.

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2. Steve Stricker

The 49-year-old pretty much owns this place, winning it three times on the bounce between 2009 and 2011, and only once dropped outside a Top 30 finish in seven years when down the field to Jordan Spieth last season.

Despite spending less time on a golf course than Kanye West does in quiet contemplation, the Ryder Cup vice-captain has caught fire recently with a T4 at the Open Championship following a T2 in the St Jude Classic.

Another big show here could see him on the other side of the ropes for a fourth time on Team USA  at Hazeltine next month.

3. Daniel Summerhays

Four rounds in the 60’s last weekend saw the season’s big improver finish T11 in the Travelers Championship as he inches ever closer to cashing in on his purple patch.

Three top 15 finishes (including two top 10s) on his last three visits to Illinois should give Dan the Man the confidence to emulate last week’s winner Russell Knox and finally get some reward for his consistency this season.

Started to peak at this time last season also, resulting in Top 10 finishes at the Barclays & Deutsche Bank Championship. Could be trending in the right direction for an overdue, but deserved, first win on Tour.

4. Zach Johnson

 A T47 last weekend saw him lose ground to a couple of close rivals in his quest for an automatic Ryder Cup place when he least needed it and it will be squeaky bum time for the ZJ if he’s not careful.

Luckily for him, he gets another bite at the cherry this week at a track where he’s been ultra-consisten. A former winner in 2012, he’s also posted three seconds and two third-place finishes since 2009.

But he really needs to press home his advantage this weekend as Team USA rivals Bubba Watson & Patrick Reed are busy chasing the Olympic dream in Rio.

With course form that is second only to Steve Stricker, a big show by Johnson could all but guarantee him a place on Davis Love III’s bus for Hazeltine next month.

5. Patrick Rodgers

The 24-year-old ended last season strongly but hasn’t managed to build on that as he gets use to the weekly grind on Tour with the big boys.

Four rounds in the 60’s last week though saw him finish T3 to Russell Knox in Connecticut and that helped to bump him up to 66 in the Fedex Cup race and 118th in the world rankings.

Can use the JDC as a further springboard for the rest of the season as he gears up for the four-tournie FedEx megabucks event in a fortnight.

6. Gary Woodland

Was punted as a lively outsider for the final Major of the season but never got out of the blocks at Baltusrol and missed the cut.

A never-threatening T38 last weekend wasn’t the way to rebound, but Woodland has enough form in the book to get among the places this time, as the big guns get a breather in before the Fed Ex and Ryder Cup smash-ups.

7. Robert Streb

Had disappeared off the grid somewhat before his T7 at Baltusrol let everyone know he was still alive. Three visits to this track have returned 22-37-14 finishes and if building on that performance and his break since then could get go Top 10 or higher again.

What do you think?