USA TODAY International Edition

At John Deere Classic, par is pedestrian

Birdies will fly at favorable course

- Steve DiMeglio

Go low or go home. That should stand as the mantra for the John Deere Classic, where birdies flourish and par might not be your best friend at forgiving TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill. It is here on a stretch of land covering 7,268 yards and playing to a par of 71 that players finishing with rounds in the 70s will frown. Just check out the numbers. From 2000 to 2016, TPC Deere Run has surrendere­d 30,042 birdies — the most on any course on the PGA Tour. The course that ranks second — TPC River Highlands, home to the Travelers Championsh­ip — has allowed 26,516.

The last 17 winners have been a combined 332 under par.

Defending champion Ryan Moore has broken par in 23 consecutiv­e rounds. Last year he didn’t make a bogey on his final 46 holes, shot 65- 65- 65- 67 and won by two shots at 22 under par. By the way, Jon Rahm and Sung Kang broke 70 each day — and tied for 14th.

Zach Johnson, the 2012 winner who is making his 16th appearance, hasn’t finished with an over- par round since 2008.

Steve Stricker, who won the tournament three consecutiv­e years starting in 2009, holds the tournament scoring record of 26- under 258 in 2010. That year he shot a first- round 60 — and didn’t lead. At the end of the day, he was looking up at Paul Goydos, who opened with a 59.

“You just have to be ready and prepared right out of the gate to be aggressive when you can and play smart when you have to,” said Stricker, who has broken par at TPC Deere Run 37 times in 46 career rounds. “It puts a little extra pressure on you. If you just stay away from the mistakes, limit those, you’ll get plenty of birdie opportunit­ies out here. That’s been always my key no matter what course I play.”

The course is not overly long or complicate­d. Good weather — light winds, plenty of sunshine — is usually in the forecast. And the greens roll pure and are very receptive. Johnson, whose career average in the tournament is 68.17, said that ideal combina- tion tees up plenty of red numbers.

“If you get content with just hitting a couple fairways and greens and making a couple putts, you’re probably going to get passed by,” Johnson said. “I like to play it as almost like a conservati­ve aggressive approach. I know there are certain pins you can get after and certain pins you probably shouldn’t. But it’s all about what’s in front of you. I think that’s the beauty of this track.

“It does have some teeth if you’re overly aggressive and does have some teeth if you’re off. That’s why we see a separation, too. The guys that are playing well will rise to the top.”

Moore rose to the top last year for his fifth Tour title. The win ignited his season, highlighte­d by his runner- up finish to Rory McIlroy in The Tour Championsh­ip and his play in the Ryder Cup, where he clinched victory for the USA with his singles victory against Lee Westwood.

Moore, however, hasn’t played since missing the cut in the Memorial the first week of June. A strained tendon in his left shoulder sent him to a long stretch of rehab and rest. He says he’s healthy and eager to get back inside the ropes. He knows once there he has to go low.

“Honestly, it’s feeling better than before I hurt it,” he said. “Honestly, I’m showing up this week not really even thinking about it, so that’s a positive. ...

“My swing feels good. The few rounds of golf I’ve played I’ve hit the ball nicely. Hit a lot of nice wedges. Hitting my driver well off the tee and accurately. On a golf course like this, if I’m in the right positions and I have the right clubs ... I’m going to be trying to hit it around the hole and make birdies. That’s what you have to do at this tournament.”

 ?? JEFFREY BECKER, USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Defending champ Ryan Moore is back after a few weeks of rest and rehab for a strained shoulder tendon.
JEFFREY BECKER, USA TODAY SPORTS Defending champ Ryan Moore is back after a few weeks of rest and rehab for a strained shoulder tendon.

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