July 5, 2010

Fantasy Fix

Through the use of statistics, trends, course-matchups and sometimes a magic eight ball, we will do our best to help you set your fantasy golf lineup

Zach Johnson's 17-under at TPC Deere Run last year wasn't good enough to catch Steve Stricker.

Zach Johnson's 17-under at TPC Deere Run last year wasn't good enough to catch Steve Stricker.

Welcome to another edition of Fantasy Fix, where it's Justin Rose's world -- and we're just living in it.

Even with a brutal final-round collapse last week in Hartford, the Englishman is on a roll with wins at the Memorial and over the weekend at the AT&T National. We apologize for missing the boat on the first two victories of his PGA Tour career, but we guarantee he won't win again this week -- when he's not in the field.

No, the hottest golfer on the planet won't be teeing it up at the John Deere Classic. In fact, many of the top players won't be as they gear up for next week's British Open. Still, there's plenty on the line in fantasy leagues everywhere and TPC Deere Run has produced some high-level champions in recent years.

Last year Steve Stricker edged out Zach Johnson for the win and the list of previous winners is as follows: Kenny Perry, Jonathan Byrd, John Senden, Sean O'Hair and Vijay Singh. OK, so we left out 2004 where Mark Hensby beat John E. Morgan (Who?!) in a playoff, but you get the point. What will happen this time? Here are some thoughts.

STUDS

Steve Stricker: We're going to try not to over-think things too much this week. Stricker is the defending champion and the highest-ranked player in the field. Yes, he hasn't been very Stricker-like of late, but you have to like the former University of Illinois star returning to the Prairie State.

Stricker is also still recovering from a shoulder injury that caused him to withdraw from the Players Championship. While he hasn't been sharp in his three starts since coming back, he has made the cut in all three. Plus, it's been his putter, rather than his swing, that has held him back of late.

Zach Johnson: Another no-brainer. The midwestern product is very comfortable at TPC Deere Run as evidenced by his close call last year. He's having an unusual year with just one top 10, but he made it count by winning at Colonial six weeks ago. He's also missed just two cuts in 16 starts while racking up seven top 25s. Tough to see him not finishing high here.

While Rose might be the hottest golfer on the planet,Jason Day isn't far behind. Day won the Byron Nelson for his first career win in May and is coming off a T-9 at Aronimink, where he was the co-leader after the first round. He hasn't lit up TPC Deere Run in his three starts, but has made the cut each time and posted a T-15 there last year.

We hate to keep going back to the well with this pick (Lie!), but how can you not like Tim Clark's chances against this watered-down field? The Fantasy Fix favorite backed up his breakthrough win at the Players Championship well with a T-12 at the U.S. Open. While he didn't play in this event last year, he earned one of his eight runner-ups here in 2007. Like Rose, now that he's over that hurdle of closing out events, expect more wins to come in the near future.

DUDS

Jeff Maggert: The usually solid Maggert has been consistent at the John Deere as well, but in a bad way. Maggert has missed the cut in each of the last two years and has a T-33 as his highest finish in this event since 2003. He's also been on one of the roughest stretches of his career with seven missed cuts and two WDs in his last 10 tournaments. On the bright side, he's less than four years away from being able to tee it up on the Champions Tour.

Just in case you were thinking about picking Glen Day, don't do it. The tour veteran has gone MC, T-57, MC, MC, T-66 in his last five attempts at the TPC Deere Run. In six starts on the PGA Tour in 2010 his best finish is a T-17 at the Mayakoba. Unfortunately, for Glen "All" Day (one of the best nicknames in sports), his stint on the Nationwide Tour this year has been even worse with six missed cuts in six tournaments. As we said before, we're going to try not to over-think things too much this week.

SLEEPERS

Aaron Baddeley: We know he used to be a big name, but when you're languishing around No. 200 in the world rankings, you are still considered a sleeper. Some added distance and a return to solid putting could put the still-young Australian, who finished T-9 at this event last year, back in the winner's circle soon. He's coming off a T-16 at the AT&T National and he finished T-3 at the Valero Texas Open in May.

It's never a bad idea to consider a former champion, so we'll go with Jonathan Byrd. Other than his win in 2007, Byrd has done very well at TPC Deere Run, making the cut in all six attempts and adding a T-2 in 2003. Byrd is in the midst of a down year having missed the cut in half of his 16 tournaments and having only one top 10, but perhaps a return to Deere Run can get him back on track.

And finally, we like__Kevin Streelman__, who finished solo eighth in his only start at the John Deere last year. Of course, Streelman is better known as the winner of the inaugural Kodak Challenge in 2009, when he had the best cumulative score throughout the year on certain holes designated for the contest. His reward? One million dollars or just $7,044 less than the total he made from playing in 29 events. It's probably a safe bet what type of camera he's snapping his pictures with these days.

-- Alex Myers is a contributing editor for GolfDigest.com.