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Michael Taylor 7th Jul 2010 - 14:30

Oh Deere, Byrd could fly in Illinois

A weak field arrives in Illinois this week for the John Deere Classic but with valuable FedEx Cup points up for grabs the competition should be as hot as ever.

The destination is the TPC at Deere Run in the heart of Silvis, a course that has seen its fair share of drama over the year and a course that rewards the more consistent ball strikers on the PGA Tour.

Past winners have included Kenny Perry, Steve Stricker, Vijay Singh and Jonathan Byrd, the latter looking great value at 50/1 to recapture the title he won back in 2007.

Many see Byrd as one of golf's underachievers after a glittering college career with Clemson yet it's all too often been a struggle for the technically gifted South Carolinian since turning professional in 2000.

This year is no exception either with only one top ten from sixteen starts (tied 8th at the Transitions) and, more worrying, he's only managed to make 50% of the cuts - certainly not what you expect from a guy who has three PGA titles to his name.

However, and this is the good news, he finally seems to be finding a bit of rhythm with his last outing seeing him claim a creditable share for sixteenth at last week's AT&T National.

He still has improvements to make from his time in Pennsylvania but he's sure to draw loads of encouragement from the way he fared around the greens (tied 15th in putts per round and tied 32nd greens in regulation) and his consistency over the final three rounds, where he produced double figure pars each day.

If he is realistically going to challenge this week then he'll need to hit a better percentage of fairways but you can be sure even if he misses he'll feel confident of making big recoveries.

Byrd has fond memories of this course, so against a weak field he could be an extremely dangerous outsider.

One of the few quality acts he will have to beat though is Tim Clark, who has become a threat to the top of the leaderboard every time he's stepped out on to the golf course this season.

The South African has always had the game to win a lot of events, the big question has been his mentality, which is the area he really seems to have improved on this year.

Obviously he had the big PLAYERS Championship win but it's not just that.

He's had four top tens including a second at the Bob Hope Classic. He's in a career best position of 7th in the FedEx Cup standings and he's just added an impressive 12th in the US Open to his2010 resume.

There's no doubting he's the form player appearing in Illinois this weekend despite Steve Stricker's name topping the betting at 14/1.

Clark is sure to have one eye on St Andrews ahead of next week's Open Championship but I also know he'd love to make the flight to Scotland with a second career Tour title under his belt - and his price of 20/1 is big enough to get people interested.


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