The first round of the John Deere Classic was what we thought it was. A couple of golfers made mini runs at 59, everybody in the top 10 shot 5 under or better, and if you shot over par, you’re at least 10 back and nowhere near the top 100 after Round 1.
Jonas Blixt leads the way following a saucy 62. After going out in 33, he came home with no fours on the second nine and shot 29 to touch off the 9-under score. Blixt has a bit of company near the top, particularly with a potential U.S. Ryder Cupper, but will start the second round with a lead.
There are some interesting contenders to touch on and a few who are just a bit beyond the top of the leaderboard to keep an eye on. Let’s take a look at both as we recap Round 1 and look ahead to what the next 54 holes hold.
1. Jonas Blixt (-9)
Blixt was casual after his round when he was asked if he’s started thinking about grabbing what would be his first individual victory since 2013. He said he’s going to the zoo with fellow Swede, Henrik Norlander, and has not even come close to thinking about winning the golf tournament wire to wire like J.T. Poston did a year ago.
“No, no. No, I only play 25% of the tournament,” he said. “There’s 75% to go. I always feel like the back nine on Sunday is where it really matters, so we’ll see where I will be on Sunday. So I don’t know.”
Still, Blixt should feel good about how he hit it in Round 1. His five strokes gained on approach led the field by more than two strokes. Even though he’s still a longer shot (see below for odds), he can absolutely stay in the mix over the next 54 holes. The problem is so can a lot of other players.
2. Grayson Murray (-8)
T3. Greyson Sigg, Garrick Higgo, Adam Schenk, Nate Lashley, Richy Werenski, Cameron Young (-6)
T9. Seamus Power, Brendon Todd, Alex Smalley (-5)
Young is obviously the massive name here, and he needed a great week. One of the darlings of last year’s major championship season has struggled mightily since the Masters this year with no top-25 finishes and little that’s working outside of his driver (which, to be fair, works perhaps better than anybody’s in the world).
After an all-world effort in Round 1, he’s now primed to kickstart his summer ahead of the Open Championship (where he finished second a year ago) and play his way back into the Ryder Cup conversation with a victory or near victory this weekend. That’s how quickly things can change right now.
Young was flawless on the day, perfect off the tee and gained more strokes putting than he has in any other single round so far in 2023. He is now the worthy favorite to win this event and has probably the most to gain from doing so — which means he also has the most to lose.
Big names lingering
There were a handful of golfers who I thought might fare better at TPC Deere Run but at least stayed in the mix. Here they are with what they can improve upon going into Friday’s second round. None of them are totally out of the mix yet, and all are one really good round from joining Blixt at the very top.
Ludvig Aberg (-3): Hit a horrible drive on No. 11 that led to bogey and hurt his driving numbers, but he was solid across the board. He’ll need something better than 68 at some point this week, but he has also has the firepower to go nuts on this golf course.
Russell Henley (-2): Henley finished in the top 10 from tee to green but couldn’t putt it into Rock River. He did not finish in the top 140 in that category, which means he should have scored better but also that he’s poised for a nice rebound over the next three days.
Gordon Sargent (-1): The short game remains a work in progress. He drove it like everyone thought he would (top 15 off the tee), but made sloppy bogeys on No. 1 and No. 18 that held him back a bit from posting what could have been a really nice 3-under score.
2023 John Deere Classic updated odds and picks
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
- Cam Young: 11/2
- Adam Schenk: 9-1
- Alex Smalley: 16-1
- Seamus Power: 18-1
- Denny McCarthy: 20-1
- Nate Lashley: 20-1
- Garrick Higgo: 22-1
- Greyson Sigg: 25-1
- Russell Henley: 25-1
- Grayson Murray: 25-1
- Brendon Todd: 25-1
I like Schenk here at 9-1. He’s been playing terrific golf of late with three top 10s in his last five starts and is in prime position to make a run at the lead on Friday or Saturday. Other than that, I kind of love Henley at 25-1 and Aberg lurking back a little further at a great number (35-1). Those two can get scorching and could pull off a bit of a Collin Morikawa from a week ago when he was 16-1 going into the final day and lost in a playoff. There’s more room for them to work with right now, and I suspect at least one of them will get into contention by Sunday afternoon.