With the 2012 Open Championship scheduled for next weekend, golf's best players will be gearing up this week. Some will be getting in early practice at the Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club, while others will be competing at the John Deere Classic at the TPC at Deere Run.
The top-ranked golfers may not be in attendance, but some up-and-comers and second-tier veterans will be on hand to try to establish themselves on the Tour and have a chance to win a few dollars.
Leading the field is Steve Stricker, who is attempting to become just the fifth player ever to win the same event four consecutive times. If he is victorious, he'll be just the second player alive to complete the feat — matching Tiger Woods, to whom Stricker recently spoke for advice on how to maintain his success and strengthen his putting game.
This tournament accounts for three of Stricker's 12 PGA Tour wins. In 2009, he finished three strokes ahead of Zach Johnson, Brett Quigley and Brandt Snedeker. In 2010, he topped Paul Goydos by two strokes. In 2011, he edged Kyle Stanley by one stroke. This year, he's the 7-1 favorite to win the John Deere Classic at the Bovada Sportsbook.
Both Johnson and Stanley will be in attendance in Sylvis, Ill.
Johnson will likely be Stricker's closest competition this weekend. The former Masters winner won the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in May and is looking to ride that success here. Johnson is a 12-1 shot to win the tournament.
The 24-year-old Stanley isn't expected to compete too hard, but this rising star can turn some heads. He won his first PGA Tour event at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February, narrowly defeating Ben Crane by a stroke (Crane, too, will be at the John Deere Classic). Stanley shares 33-1 odds of winning with Brendon De Jonge, Jeff Overton, Tim Clark and Seung-yul Noh.
Other favorites include Nick Watney at 20-1 and Jonathan Byrd and Ryan Palmer at 25-1. Check the Bovada Sportsbook for even more odds, including long-shot winners with odds as deep as 250-1. You can also bet on who you think the leader will be after the first round.