Sepp Straka of Austria flirted with the record book, but was happy with the finish.
The 30-year-old Straka survived a double-bogey 6 when he hit into the water on the final hole, but shot nine-under-par 60 to win the 52nd John Deere Classic by two strokes over Brendon Todd and Alex Smalley at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill.
Straka was on pace through 14 holes to challenge Jim Furyk’s PGA Tour record of 58 set in the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn., but finished with three pars and the double bogey.
“A 59 was not really on my mind that much, although I knew where I stood, but the main thing I was thinking about was winning,” said Straka, whose only other victory on the PGA Tour came in the 2022 Honda Classic. “The only thing that matters out here is winning, and this is pretty awesome. I’m pretty pumped about it.
“I didn’t hit a very good shot on the last hole, maybe my only bad shot of the day, so I’ll give myself a little bit of slack. I was just trying to hit it into the middle of the green and make par at worst, but got over the top of it and pulled it into the water. There were still some players still on the course who still had a chance to catch me, but fortunately, I was able to get away with it.
“But it was crazy waiting things out until it was over.”
Straka, who also won the 2018 KC Golf Classic on the Korn Ferry Tour, sank a 20-foot eagle putt on the second hole and added five birdies while shooting 28 on the front nine, and made four birdies in a row through No. 14 en route to his winning score of 21-under 263.
Third-round leader Todd made his only bogey at No. 16 when he needed birdies at the finish and closed with a 68 that included two birdies on each nine, while Smalley, seeking his first pro victory, also made only a single bogey at No. 13 in a 67 as they played alongside each other in the final pairing.
“If you told me when I teed it up today that I would shot three-under for the day and tie the guy I was playing with overall, I would have thought I had a pretty good chance to win,” said Todd, who claimed the last of his three PGA Tour victories in the 2019 Mayakoba Classic. “So obviously, Sepp went out well there and played an unbelievable round. Hats off to him. I’m really happy for him because he’s a friend of mine.”
Said Smalley: “I actually had no idea what was going on because I didn’t look at the scoreboard at all, and that was my plan. If it wasn’t enough, then it wasn’t enough, and Sepp deserves to win with a 62. That’s incredible playing.”
Rookie Ludvig Aberg of Sweden sank an eight foot eagle putt on the second hole and added six birdies in a 63 to finish three shots behind in a tie for fourth with Adam Schenk, who made three late birdies in a 68.
Defending champion J.T. Poston birdied three of the first six holes on his way to a 68 and wound up five strokes behind in a big tie for sixth with third-round leader Cameron Young, who had six birdies and three bogeys in another 68; 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover, who had three birdies on each nine in yet another 68; Grayson Murray, who birdied four of the first seven holes en route to a 67; Kevin Yu of Taiwan, who made four straight birdies through the turn in a 66; Mark Hubbard, who birdied four of the first eight holes in a 68, and Denny McCarthy, who made a late birdie to salvage a 70.
Peter Kuest of Fresno, who played at Brigham Young, finished at 67-67-65-71—270 to tie for 17th and earned Special Temporary Membership on the PGA Tour.
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