Daily Wrap-up: Round 4, John Deere Classic

July 10, 2011
Staff and wire reports

SILVIS, Ill. -- Steve Stricker sank a 25-foot putt from off the 18th green Sunday to win the John Deere Classic for the third straight year and put himself in one of golf's most select groups.

logo_johndeereclassic.jpg

The putt capped a roller coaster afternoon for Stricker, who led by five strokes when he made the turn, fell behind rookie Kyle Stanley by two shots on the back nine, then birdied the final two holes to close with a 2-under 69.

"It was an unbelievable week and an unbelievable finish," Stricker said. "I still can't believe I'm sitting here."

Stricker became just the 10th golfer since World War II to win a tournament three straight times. He finished at 22-under 262 to beat Stanley by one stroke and move to second in the FedExCup standings.

Matt McQuillan, who had missed the cut in his previous 10 tournaments, shot a 64 to tie Zach Johnson (65) for third at 17 under. Charles Howell III (64) and Chez Reavie (72) were another stroke back.

Stanley kept the lead by salvaging par on 17 after sending his tee shot into a grove of trees, but he missed a 9-foot par putt on 18 to open the door for Stricker, who took advantage.

Stricker had fallen two back with bogeys on 15 and 16 that seemingly ended his hopes of a threepeat.

"I really did feel like the momentum was gone for a while," he said. "Those holes kind of derailed me there."

But he regrouped quickly. Stricker knocked in a 15-foot putt for birdie on 17 to cut Stanley's lead to one stroke, then made what turned out to be a tournament-saving shot from a bunker on the left side of the fairway.

Standing with his left foot in the bunker and his right foot on the lip, Stricker hit the ball solidly and left it on the fringe of the green behind the pin, drawing a huge roar from the crowd.

Winner's Spotlight
Steve Stricker climbed to No. 2 in the FedExCup standings with his second victory of 2011 on Sunday.
• Latest standings

The next roar was even louder. Using his putter, Stricker sent the ball toward the cup and watched it curl in from the left side. The 44-year-old from Madison, Wis., a crowd favorite at this tournament, backed away as the ball neared the hole, then raised his arms and pumped his fist to celebrate the moment.

"It's weird," Stricker said. "When I get into a situation where I have to make a putt, I feel like my nerves kind of go away and I focus extremely hard on trying to make that putt. And that's kind of like the little zone I got into on 17 and 18, I guess."

With the victory, Stricker joined a small but noteworthy group of golfers who have won a tournament three year running. The list reads like a Who's Who's of the game and includes Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Ben Hogan and Johnny Miller.

Woods has done it six times and Palmer twice.

"I kept telling myself that it's not a big deal and it really wasn't -- until today," Stricker said. "That back nine trying to win, it's just really hard. I don't know any other way to say it. It's extremely hard to put it away.

"When you watch guys like Tiger put away all those tournaments, anybody who's put it away down the stretch, it's a difficult thing to do. But I'm happy to come out on top. I made a couple of putts when I had to."

Woods also is one of just four golfers who has won a tournament four straight years. The way Stricker has mastered the TPC Deere Run course, you can't discount his chances of joining that group, too.

Stricker finished 26 under at last year's tournament and was 20 under in his 2009 victory.

So, was he ready talk about four in a row?

"No," Stricker said with a smile.

Stanley, 23, claimed a nice consolation prize, earning the spot in the British Open that goes to the highest finisher in this tournament who's not already qualified. But if it hadn't been for Stricker's late heroics, Stanley would have had his first victory on the TOUR.

"I'm very excited to go over there," said Stanley, whose best finish had been a tie for 12th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in late March. "But I'm still trying to calm down from that round."

Stanley trailed by five strokes after Stricker buried a 50-foot birdie putt on No. 9. But showing the poise of a TOUR veteran, he birdied five of the first six holes on the back nine to zoom into the lead, making a 26-foot birdie putt on 13, an 18-footer on 14 and a 36-footer on 15 to go up by a stroke.

Shot of the Day

Steve Stricker had the top shot on Sunday.

When Stricker made his two bogeys, Stanley suddenly led by two.

"I just kept giving myself good looks and putts that I did in practice rounds and putts that I knew what they were going to do," he said. "I just kept trying to make birdies and give myself opportunities."

Stanley made a nice par save on 17 after driving into a grove of trees, then got into trouble on 18 when he went from the rough to a greenside bunker. He was in good position to salvage par again when he chipped up to 9 feet, but he missed the putt and took bogey, giving Stricker the opportunity he needed.

Stricker won for the second time this year and 11th time in his career, with eight of those victories coming after he turned 40. He won the Memorial Tournament a month ago and now has multiple wins in three consecutive years.

TPC Deere Run: Sunday
EASIEST HOLE TOUGHEST HOLE
The par-5 2nd hole was the easiest with a Sunday scoring average of 4.603.
EAGLES: 1 BIRDIES: 35 PARS: 29 BOGEYS: 8 OTHERS: 0
The par-4 15th hole was the toughest with a Sunday scoring average of 4.288.
EAGLES: 0 BIRDIES: 6 PARS: 45 BOGEYS: 18 OTHERS: 4
About the winner
• Stricker birdied the final hole from the fringe (25 ft. 3 in) on No. 18 to claim a one shot win over rookie Kyle Stanley. Stricker wins his third straight at the John Deere Classic.
• Stricker moves into second in the FedExCup standings, 125 points behind Nick Watney.
• Stricker has converted seven of 13 third-round leads/co-leads on TOUR, including five of his last six. He failed to convert the lead/co-lead at the 2011 Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
• Eight of Stricker's 11 wins on TOUR have come since he turned 40.
• Stricker has held the outright lead six times on TOUR after 54-holes and he has converted each into victory.
• In 10 careers starts at the John Deere Classic, this is the second time Stricker has only recorded all four rounds in the 60s (66-64-63-69). The other time was in 1997 when he finished T7.
• Stricker records his third straight multiple-win season on TOUR. He is currently the only golfer to have multiple wins each of the last three years 2009, 2010 and 2011.
• Stricker continues to lead the TOUR with 35 consecutive cuts made. Matt Kuchar is second with 29. Tiger Woods owns the all-time record with 142 consecutive cuts made.
• Stricker records his 11th career win on TOUR, joining the following players who won 11 in their career: Andy Bean, Frank Beard, John Cook, Al Geiberger, Bob Goalby, Scott Hoch, Wayne Levi, Bobby Nichols, Victor Ghezzi and Tony Lema.
• The third-round leader/co-lead has now won 16 of 28 events on TOUR this season, most recently achieved by Stricker this week and Nick Watney at last week's AT&T National.
• Sticker's 100 putts this week are the third fewest on TOUR this season. Stricker also led the John Deere Classic field in Stokes Gained - Putting (5.024).

Only four others have done that since 2000: Woods, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els.