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Sunday, 20 January, 2019

Harman set to do damage at Deere Run

US Open runner-up full of confidence

Brian Harman in action at the Travelers Championship
1 of 1

Starts 1pm Thursday
Live on Sky Sports red button and Sky Sports Mix from 9pm

Palmer's top tip
Brian Harman 22-1

Seasonal earnings of almost $4m have already made this the greatest year in the career of Brian Harman and this fishing fanatic should hook more treasure in the John Deere Classic this week.

Harman has burst into the top 30 of the world rankings courtesy of a brave Wells Fargo Championship victory in May, when he fended off Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm down the stretch, and a share of second place in the US Open a month ago.

Harman left the US Open with his head held high, beaten only by a phenomenal Sunday performance from Brooks Koepka, and the diminutive Georgia man must have more confidence than ever coursing through his veins.

In addition to the Wells Fargo and the US Open, Harman has impressed elsewhere, finishing third in the CareerBuilder Challenge, seventh at Colonial, ninth at Torrey Pines, ninth in the Heritage and 13th at Bay Hill. The maturing left-hander will surely be a factor this week at a track which sets up superbly for him.

Harman's maiden US Tour victory came in the 2014 John Deere Classic and his red-hot 2017 short-game form means he should flourish in this low-scoring affair again. Harman is eighth on the US Tour strokes-gained-putting statistics.

Next best
Steve Stricker 28-1

The undisputed king of TPC Deere Run is Steve Stricker, winner of this tournament three times in a row from 2009 through 2011 and the all-time leading John Deere money earner. The old master could easily have one last hurrah in him at his favourite event.

Stricker has twice made the JDC each-way places in addition to his victories, his putting prowess always making him a leading contender at a venue where every hole is a birdie chance. He turned 50 in February but retains enough ability to triumph in an event bereft of superstars.

Stricker has finished 16th in both Majors this year, the US Open a particularly joyous affair for him in his home state. Despite being handicapped by the length of Erin Hills, the local hero carded a pair of weekend 69s. He won the Memphis sectional qualifier just to get into the event.

Stricker, fourth in the Open last year, followed up his US Open fun with third place in the American Family Insurance Championship on the Champions Tour, and the veteran is clearly playing well enough to deliver more John Deere birdies.

Other selections
Peter Malnati 250-1
Wesley Bryan 80-1

The massive prices about Peter Malnati are well worth an interest. He turned 30 a month ago and is threatening to get his act together again after a barren spell. Malnati is a superb putter – he was 14th on the US Tour strokes-gained-putting stats in 2015 and 2016 – and that makes him a Deere Run dangerman.

Malnati was born in Indiana and went to college in Missouri, both neighbouring states of Illinois, so he should feel comfortable this week. And the evidence of 2016 suggests he loves Deere Run. He missed 11 cuts in a row prior to last year's event, but finished 27th, closing with a 66 which was bettered by only two players in the field.

Malnati has made five cuts in a row, slowly but surely finding his game, and he was one shot shy of qualification at a US Open sectional in that period. He carded four rounds in the 60s for 29th spot in the Greenbrier Classic on Sunday.

This is no mug – he has won twice on the Tour and claimed a maiden US Tour title with a gutsy Sanderson Farms Championship success in 2015 – and comments on his blog provide great encouragement. “Played beautifully!” and “Thrilled with the progress!” are two recent excerpts.

Complete a four-pronged staking plan with Wesley Bryan, another strong putter who can reach the super-low total needed at Deere Run. Bryan, a three-time champion on the Tour last year, made his US Tour breakthrough in the Heritage in April. An understandable form dip has followed, but the 27-year-old closed with three solid rounds in the Quicken Loans National last time out, and the JDC looks a perfect event for him to fully fire again.

Bryan was joint-leader at the halfway stage of his JDC debut last year, before dropping to eighth place over the weekend. That fade from the rookie maiden was understandable – he won a playoff on the Tour the previous Sunday and was probably short of mental energy – but he has returned to Silvis with much more confidence.

Others to note
Daniel Berger
The world number 20 has to be favourite after some scintillating recent golf, including victory in the St Jude Classic and a playoff loss to Jordan Spieth in the Travelers Championship. His only negative is a lack of Deere Run experience.

Zach Johnson
The JDC board member won the event in 2012 and loves the layout, but he is winless since the 2015 Open Championship and has been short of sparkle.

Smylie Kaufman
The 2015 Shriners Open winner appears to be finding form again and is looking rock-solid on the greens. A tempting 150-1 chance.

Kevin Kisner
The Colonial champion putts well and can go extremely low. Must be respected, but Greenbrier Classic missed cut is off-putting.

Daniel Summerhays
The 33-year-old maiden blew another winning chance with a final-round 74 in the Quicken Loans. His bottle is being questioned, but has been playing some great golf and has a solid JDC record.

Maverick McNealy
The 21-year-old is one of the best amateurs in the world, playing the JDC on a sponsors exemption. May develop into a superstar.

Staking plan
B Harman
2.5pts each-way 22-1 Ladbrokes

S Stricker
2pts each-way 28-1 Coral

P Malnati
1pt each-way 250-1 Betfair, Coral, Power

W Bryan
1pt each-way 80-1 Coral

Course TPC Deere Run, Silvis, Illinois

Prize money $5.6m ($864,000 to the winner)

Length 7,268 yards

Par 71

Field 156

Course records – 72 holes 258 Steve Stricker (2010)
18 holes 59 Paul Goydos (2010)

Course winners taking part Sean O'Hair, Jonathan Byrd, Steve Stricker (three times), Zach Johnson, Brian Harman, Ryan Moore

When to bet By 1pm tomorrow

Where to watch Live on Sky Sports Mix and Sky Sports Red Button from 9pm tomorrow

Time difference Illinois is six hours behind the UK and Ireland

Last week – Greenbrier Classic 1 X Schauffele (66-1), 2 R Streb (125-1), T3 J Lovemark (70-1), S Munoz (250-1), T5 K Kraft (250-1), R Henley (40-1)

Course overview The John Deere Classic has been held at the TPC Deere Run since 2000. The tournament was played in the middle of August last year, switching because of the Olympics, but has been immediately restored to its traditional pre-Open slot. The track, crafted by DA Weibring in 1999, is one of the easiest the US Tour competitors face all season and Paul Goydos opened with a 59 in 2010. Steve Stricker carded 60 on the same day before finishing at 26 under par for 72 holes. The first and second holes are extremely simple, so there is scope for a fast start, and this is a birdie-fest where only the hottest of putters will contend. The track has been softened by pre-tournament rain, making it longer but easier

Story of last year Ryan Moore was bogey-free for his final 46 holes to claim a fifth US Tour title, winning by two shots from Ben Martin

Weather forecast Thunderstorms have soaked Silvis in the lead-up to the event, but it is expected to be sunny with light breezes for most of the tournament days

Type of player suited to challenge Stricker, awesome with a wedge in hand and one of the best putters in the world, won this event three times in a row before Zach Johnson, a player of a similar ilk, ended that streak. The John Deere lends itself to low scoring, so support the flat-stick masters

Key attribute Touch

Harman's maiden US Tour victory came in the 2014 John Deere Classic
E.W. Terms
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