Diane Knox Balas: Our Pickswise golf analyst with her John Deere Classic best bets and course insights

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Diane Knox Balas


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Diane Knox Balas loves golf (she’s Scottish, so of course she does) but let’s just say she’s much better at analyzing golf than playing! The same cannot be said for her brother, Russell Knox, who’s a 2-time winner on the PGA Tour and fueled Diane’s initial passion for the sport. A seasoned TV and radio host, Diane has given out 8 outright winners since joining the Pickswise team in April 2022. Her general rule is she has to have three stand-out reasons for each pick and spends her time studying stats, playing form and little nuggets of information from golfers’ lives on Tour. Diane lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband Garrett, son Greyson and two English Bulldogs Bowser & Barkley. You can follow her antics on Twitter @KnoxyDiane and Instagram @dianeknoxbalas. For Diane Knox Balas media enquiries, please email contact@pickswise.com.
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The final round of the Travelers Championship last week was a rollercoaster of emotions, to say the least! Xander Schauffele captured his 6th PGA Tour win — his first solo Tour victory since 2019 — and said afterwards that it was extra special as it was on his first wedding anniversary. I wish I’d known that tidbit of information at the start of the week when making my picks; I love the feel-good factor for a little extra spark of motivation.

In an unexpected plot twist, his nearest competitor entering Sunday, Patrick Cantlay, totally crumbled, shooting a final-round score of +6 and plummeting all the way down into a tie for 13th. However, spare your heartbreak for Sahith Theegala, who bladed one from the bunker on the 18th hole and destroyed his chances of getting his first win, or at the very least taking Xander to a playoff. I did warn you about the closing stretch drama at TPC River Highlands.

Anyway, this week we’re off to Illinois for the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run. The field this week is “light” to say the least, for a number of reasons. A lot of the top names have played a busy stretch of golf and are preparing for the final major of the year, across the pond in a few weeks. Also, with the Scottish Open taking place next week, a great deal of players are heading to my homeland to play in the tournament’s first run as an official PGA Tour event, co-sanctioned with the DP World Tour. Therefore, the John Deere has really taken a hit.

Nonetheless, we can still make some money! Plus, it’s a fantastic opportunity to find some star quality at high odds, especially in prop bets. Jason Day and Webb Simpson are really the only headline names in the field, but nine former champions are also teeing it up, including last year’s winner Lucas Glover. Plus, the tournament is part of the Open Championship Qualifying Series, with three spots up for grabs at St. Andrew’s.

TPC Deere Run: What you need to know

At 7,289 yards, this par 71 will yield another low scoring finish. Last year, Glover took the title at -19, Dylan Fritelli won at -21 in 2019 and, in 2018 Michael Kim smashed records with a winning score of -27…! (Note, there was no John Deere Classic in 2020 due to COVID.)

A whole load of skill sets can prevail around this course, and it’s not overly challenging by any means. You will see a lot of elevation changes, undulation on the fairways and tight doglegs however, so players will have to work their entire bags to make those all-important birdies.

With three par-5s, those holes will serve as real scoring opportunities, and the 2nd hole plays as the easiest hole on the course year after year.

Tree-lined fairways put a premium accuracy, but the fairways are wider than the Tour average. The Kentucky blue-grass rough is definitely something to avoid, as TPC Deere Run ranks as one of the toughest courses to play from the rough. 

This week is really going to be about setting yourself up for birdie chances and really capitalizing on them, and that’s easier here with large greens. So, once again, I’m going to really look at approach and birdie average when making my picks, as well as overall solid ball-strikers.

Knox’s Knockout John Deere Classic picks

Adam Hadwin (+1800)

Odds available at FanDuel Sportsbook at time of publishing.

When looking at current form and guys who could really seize the opportunity of this weaker field event, Adam Hadwin has to be the man. His game has really been trending this season, with five Top-10 finishes including a T7 at the U.S. Open, his last start. In fact, at a challenging U.S. Open, Hadwin gained strokes on the field in pretty much every category, including +1.3 strokes on the greens. He’s definitely one of the favorites for the John Deere Classic.

Nick Hardy (+4500)

Odds available at Bet365 Sportsbook at time of publishing.

I’m throwing in an Illinois native this week and giving you Nick Hardy. Again, this is a guy who’s been playing well and heading into a weaker-field event with a tonne of confidence. Hardy showed great form in his last two events – a T14 at the U.S. Open followed by a T8 at the Travelers last week. Confidence from a great major week speaks volumes! Last week, he was Top-20 off-the-tee, around-the-green and in putting, and if he can take those kind of stats to TPC Deere Run he’ll be expected to do well this week. In his last three starts, he’s gained almost 3.5 shots on the greens, and we know birdies will be needed in abundance in this low-scoring event.

J.T. Poston (+5500)

Odds available at DraftKings Sportsbook at time of publishing.

I don’t like to pick guys based purely on how they played the week prior, but it’s pretty hard to overlook J.T. Poston. He had a hot start, and finish, at last week’s Travelers and ended up in a tie for runner-up. He had never even made the cut in this tournament before, but obviously figured something out about TPC River Highlands when he shot an opening 62. Either that or his game is just especially dialed in right now, and I’m going with the latter. Fantastic iron play saw him 2nd in approach, 7th tee to green and 12th in putting. His season-long stats are nothing to shout about, but Poston is 3rd in final-round scoring average which could bode well in this expected Sunday shootout.

John Huh (+6600)

Odds available at Bet365 Sportsbook at time of publishing.

This man has one of the best names when talking about a relative longshot. John Huh has really turned his game, and his season, around. Coming off a T13 at the Travelers, and a T12 a few weeks prior at the Charles Schwab Challenge, Huh is a name to watch on an easier course this week. His around-the-greens stats are consistently improving, he’s 10th in approach from 100 yards, and 11th from 125-150 yards. I like those categories for this course, and John also finished T7 here in 2018. I thought his odds might be a little higher, but I’m adding Huh to my card this week.

John Deere Classic prop bets

Odds available at DraftKings Sportsbook at time of publishing.

Denny McCarthy top-5 finish (+550) 

I’m not giving up on Denny McCarthy yet! I had him for a top-10 last week at the Travelers and he missed the cut, but I’m giving him a pass. He’s had an extra few days to rest in the midst of this busy stretch of his, and a MC has to hurt after two consecutive top-tens (at Memorial and the U.S. Open). He’s an excellent putter and I hope to see him draining putts on these large greens this week to go low and finish high.

Callum Tarren top-20 finish (+550)

The Englishman got off to a great start at the U.S. Open a few weeks ago, and just missed the cut by one shot at the Travelers last week. At the U.S. Open, his approach play was his highlight, and Tarren sits within the top-10 in putting from 15-25 feet. He’s a long hitter with a top-5 in one of this season’s earlier weaker-field events. I’d expect him to be in the upper part of the leaderboard this week.

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