2014 John Deere Classic | Five players to watch

Zach Johnson
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It's hard not to like Zach Johnson at the John Deere Classic. He's a former winner and always seems to be in the mix.
By T.J. Auclair
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Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Wednesday, July 09, 2014 | 9:41 a.m.

The PGA Tour is in Silvis, Ill., this week for the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run. It's the final event on Tour before next week's Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

Though it's the week before a major and a long way from England, many of the top players on Tour, including Zach Johnson and Jordan Spieth, are in the field.

Johnson and Spieth are both past champions at John Deere. In fact, Spieth outlasted Johnson in a playoff there just last year. You're going to want to keep an eye on those two players as well as a few others this week.

RELATED: John Deere Classic tee times | Photos from John Deere | July reader photos

5. Ryan Moore
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Won the CIMB Classic
Reason to watch: Moore has been steady pretty much all season long, racking up 10 top-25 finishes in 17 starts. His latest effort was a tie for fifth at the Travelers Championship. His best finish at the John Deere Classic was a tie for eighth in 2012. I just feel like he's been playing well, contending regularly and that trend will continue this week.

4. Harris English
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Won the OHL Classic at Mayakoba
Reason to watch: In his lone John Deere Classic start, English tied for 15th a year ago. He has seven top-10 finishes this season, including a tie for seventh at the Travelers Championship in his last start. English won the OHL Classic at Mayakoba back in November, which was part of the new wraparound schedule. After that T15 in Silvis last year, English finished T15 the following week at the Open Championship and then T14 in his next start -- the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. To me, it looks like there's something about this time of the year on the Tour schedule that fancies English. We'll see if that plays out again this time around at TPC Deere Run.

3. Zach Johnson
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
T6 at the Memorial Tournament
Reason to watch: Johnson has said many times before -- this is his fifth major. The former Masters champ is from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, less than 100 miles from Silvis, Ill. This is his PGA Tour "home game." Johnson counts the 2012 John Deere Classic among his 11 PGA Tour wins. He also came up short in a playoff a year ago, tied for third in 2011 and tied for second in 2009. You have to go all the way back to March for Johnson's last top-10 finish on Tour. He's keen to change that this week -- especially before heading over to England for the Open next week.

2. Steve Stricker
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
T6 at the Memorial Tournament
Reason to watch: Stricker is taking heat this week from some in the golf industry for his decision to withdraw from next week's Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. It's the second year in a row that Stricker -- who has been playing a "limited schedule" -- has decided to take a pass on the game's oldest major. With that, he's playing the John Deere Classic this week, an event that he won three consecutive years beginning in 2009. He tied for 10th in the tournament a year ago. When it comes to "horses for courses" few fit the bill quite like Stricker at TPC Deere Run. Plus, he'd like to give everyone something else to talk about.

1. Jordan Spieth
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Second at Hyundai Tournament of Champions and T2 at the Masters
Reason to watch: Spieth's lone PGA Tour win came at this very tournament one year ago in dramatic fashion. He holed a bunker shot on the 72nd hole (which he successfully recreated recently) to earn a spot in a playoff before outlasting David Hearn and Zach Johnson. Since then, it seems Spieth has done everything but win on the PGA Tour. In 19 starts this season, Spieth has finished in the top-25 on 15 occasions, including six top 10s. It's only a matter of time before Spieth wins again, so why not this week where he's the defending champ.


T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.