Steve Stricker sank a 25-foot birdie putt on the John Deere Classic’s final hole to become the third golfer in the past 20 years to win a U.S. PGA Tour event at least three times in a row.
Stricker trailed rookie Kyle Stanley by two shots yesterday before making birdies at the last two holes to win by one stroke at the TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois. It was the 11th title for Stricker and his eighth since turning 40.
Stricker, 44, is the 10th player to win the same PGA Tour event at least three years running since 1940. He’s the first since Tiger Woods -- who’s done it six times -- won a fourth consecutive Buick Invitational in 2008. The only other golfer to accomplish the feat on the PGA Tour since 1981 was Stuart Appleby, who won the season-opening Mercedes Championships in Hawaii from 2004 to 2006.
“‘When you watch someone like Tiger put away all those tournaments, it’s a difficult thing to do,” said Stricker, who received $792,000 and climbed 10 places to second in the season- long FedEx Cup playoff standings. “So I have a hard time with it. But I’m happy to come out on top.”
Stricker finished at 22-under-par 262, one shot better than Stanley, 23, who was trying to become the fifth PGA Tour rookie to win on the world’s richest golf circuit this year.
Stricker started the final round with a two-shot lead and pushed his advantage to four shots. Stanley then had five birdies in a six-hole stretch and moved atop the leaderboard as Stricker had back-to-back bogeys on the 15th and 16th holes.
Stricker birdied No. 17 and regained a share of the lead when Stanley bogeyed the 18th. On the final hole, Stricker hit a 190-yard approach shot from a fairway bunker over a pond to the back fringe and then drained the winning putt.
“When I get into a situation where I have to make a putt, I feel like my nerves kind of go away,” said Stricker. “That’s kind of the little zone I got in at 17 and 18.”
Stanley’s finish secured him a place at the British Open, which is scheduled for July 14-17 at Royal St George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, Kent, about 77 miles (124 kilometers) southeast of London on England’s coast.
Stricker, who won the Memorial Tournament on June 5, is the shortest-priced U.S. player for the third major of the year at odds of 33-1, according to U.K. bookmaker William Hill Plc.
U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy is the 7-1 favorite at William Hill and the Las Vegas Hilton’s Race and Sports Book, followed by Lee Westwood and Luke Donald. Nick Watney has the lowest British Open odds among Americans at the Las Vegas Hilton at 25-1, followed by Stricker at 30-1.
Stricker said he’s ready for the challenge of negotiating the links course at Royal St George’s.
“I’ll just go over there and see what it’s all about,” Stricker said. “I enjoy that style of golf. We do it once a year. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but I look forward to it.”
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