One poor swing cost Sepp Straka a chance to break 60 in the final round of the John Deere Classic. Fortunately, it didn’t cost him his second PGA Tour title.
Straka strafed TPC Deere Run for a closing nine-under par 62, but he left the door open to be caught at the tape when he double-bogeyed the par-4 18th hole by pulling his approach into the greenside lake. A birdie on the home hole – or on any of the three previous holes after getting to 11-under par for the day – would have given the 30-year-old Austrian the 13th sub-60 score in tour history.
He finished in Silvis, Illinois, more than an hour before the leaders, his advantage of as many as five strokes whittled to one. But third-round leader Brendan Todd couldn’t catch him and neither could anyone else, as Straka ended up winning by two.
“It’s pretty crazy,” said Straka, who overcame a four-stroke deficit at the start of the day.
Straka is the second winner this season to double-bogey his final hole, after Emiliano Grillo at the Charles Schwab Challenge in May. He is the first player since David Frost in 1992 to win the Deere with a round over par. Straka began the week with a two-over 73 and sat in 133rd place before rallying with 63 and 65 to climb into contention.
He credited his short-game instructor with a putting tip that turned around his fortunes. “There was a little bit of a tweak in the putting set up,” Straka said. “My putting coach, Tim Yelverton, texted me on Thursday night, said my toe [of the putterhead] was sticking up a little bit, so put my hands a little higher and just got hot.”
Straka led the field in strokes gained/putting in the final round and was fourth for the week at 6.731.
Straka tallied nine birdies and an eagle, all in the first 14 holes, to race past 13 players ahead of him on the leaderboard. His best chance to get to 12-under on the forgiving par-71 layout came at the par-5 17th hole, but he pulled a nine-footer for birdie. At 18, he overcooked a draw from the fairway, 166 metres from the hole, and seemed to know right away it would find the water. His missed a 13-foot putt for bogey.
“It was not a good shot,” he said of his final approach. “Wind was off the right. I was just trying to go middle of the green and let it feed down to the left. Pulled it early. And then the wind drug it over to the water. It’s unfortunate. It was the first bad shot I hit today, I think, so I’ll give myself a little bit of slack there.”
There was some thought that he had played aggressively to shoot 59, but he dismissed that during a quick CBS TV interview immediately after signing for his career-low score on tour.
“The 59 was nowhere in my head, really,” Straka said. “I knew I had a chance, but in that situation, the only thing that really matters is trying to win the golf tournament.”
He still won, getting help from Todd, who climbed within a stroke before three-putting the 16th hole from 29 feet to drop two behind. He finished with a three-under 68 and 265 total, tied for second with Alex Smalley, who closed with a 67.
Ludvig Aberg, the sensational Swedish rookie, shot the day’s second-best score, a 63, to end up T-4. The pick of the Australians was Aaron Baddeley in a share of 31st at 11-under.