SILVIS, Ill. – Brian Harman wisely packed his passport before he headed to the John Deere Classic. It’s a good thing because he punched his ticket to his first Open Championship in dramatic fashion by winning his first PGA Tour event by one stroke.
“Passport and jackets,” Harman said. “I’m heading across the pond.”
Harman, who held the first 54-hole lead of his career, pulled away on the closing five holes to shoot 5-under 66 for a 72-hole total of 22-under 262.
Here are 5 Things to know from TPC Deere Run:
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1. HARMAN’S TURN FOR BETTER: Brian Harman withstood a fierce challenge from his St. Simons Island, Ga., neighbor of two doors down, Zach Johnson, who closed with 64 and finished one stroke back.
“I figured I needed to get after it and I just made it happen on the back nine,” Harman said.
In the year of the Bulldog on Tour, Harman, 27, became the sixth University of Georgia product to win this season.
“Harris (English) and Russell (Henley) and Brendon Todd and Chris Kirk and all these guys, we were all right there neck-and-neck all the time in college, and they’ve won a lot of golf tournaments,” Harman said. “It feels good to – now we’ve got a little something else to talk about.”
Harman took three-putts from 65 feet at the last, then hugged his caddie, Scott Tway. Harman wears his emotions on his sleeve and counts on his caddie to calm him down. But not this week, Tway said: “He was in total control.”
Harman finally let some of that emotion escape with a right uppercut celebration on the 18th green, and waved for his fiancée, Kelly Van Slyke, to join him, lifting her into the air.
Afterwards Harman was greeted to rousing applause as he walked into the main clubhouse for a champagne toast.
“Don’t give me a cheer,” he said. “Give me a beer!”
Coors Light it was.
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2. ZACH’S RUNNER-UP AGAIN: For the second year in a row, 2012 JDC champion Zach Johnson came up just short. But not without a fight. He posted his 24th consecutive round in the 60s at TPC Deere Run, a bogey-free 7-under 64 that was the low round of the day.
“I kind of pushed him so it’s not like he went out there and had it won on the back nine,” Johnson said.
With his typical fierce resolve, Johnson pointed to the positives of his best finish since the Valero Texas Open (T-6) in April.
“This just verifies that whatever I was doing in that time span between then and now is good,” he said.
Next for Johnson is the Open Championship, a tournament where he contended deep into the weekend last year.
“I love the nuances of it,” Johnson said of links golf. “I love what it demands, and I love when I leave there I feel like that golf tournament magnifies my weaknesses more than any golf tournament I’ve ever played.”
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3. KELLY TOPS STRICKER: In the end, Jerry Kelly edged his fellow cheesehead Steve Stricker for low-Wisconsin honors at the JDC. Kelly posted a 66 to finish tied for third with Jhonattan Vegas at 19-under 265 while Stricker slipped to a tie for 11th.
Kelly had planned to skip the JDC to watch his son, a rising sophomore in high school, pitch and play centerfield in a tournament at Notre Dame.
“Since I was one shot out of the playoff last year, I figured I should probably come just because (TPC Deere Run) plays well for me,” Kelly said.
His decision paid off. Kelly played the final 39 holes without a bogey and led the field in strokes gained putting (7.285).
Stricker, who was 116-under par in his last 22 rounds entering today’s final round, didn’t make a birdie until the 16th. A double-bogey at 12 ended his bid to become a four-time champion of the event. Stricker stumbled to 71. For the second straight week he was in position to win a tournament and couldn’t mount a charge.
“I started to press, trying to make birdies and trying to make it happen,” Stricker said. “That makes it harder when putts aren’t falling.”
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4. GOYDOS GRADUATES: Paul Goydos, who turned 50 on June 24, said he likely made his final PGA Tour start at the John Deere Classic, where he once shot 59. Goydos, a two-time Tour winner, expects to make his Champions Tour debut at the 3M Championship. After a slow start to his final round, Goydos strung together four birdies in a row from Nos. 14-17, but finished with a double bogey at 18.
“I started my career with an 80 at Sony and ended with a 75,” Goydos said.
The one-time substitute teacher said he never expected he would play 22 years on Tour.
“When I first got my card in 1993, I thought this would be a good thing for a few years and then I’ll go do real-world stuff,” said Goydos, who played this year on a medical extension and made just four cuts. “We’re the luckiest guys on the face of the earth. There is a movie called ‘The Lords of Dogtown’ and it’s about these guys who become professional skateboarders. One guy says to another, ‘You know what this means, boys? We’re going to be on summer vacation for the rest of our lives.’ That basically sums up my life. I’ve been on summer vacation for the past 22 years.”
It’s not really ending either, but rather beginning all over again for Goydos. He said he intends to play nine of the remaining 10 Champions Tours events, not including the Charles Schwab Championship.
“I like competing,” Goydos said. “Playing bad golf doesn’t bother me. Not playing golf at all bothers me.”
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Harman became the first lefthander to win the JDC since Sam Adams (not the beer) in 1973. … Jordan Spieth finished tied for seventh in his first title defense. A bogey at 15 spoiled an impressive Sunday charge. … Jhonattan Vegas fired a bogey-free 65 to finish in a two-way tie for third and earn $272,600. More importantly, he collected 162.50 FedEx Cup points to satisfy his major medical extension and retain his playing privileges for the rest of the 2013-2014 season. … Bo Van Pelt (T-7) recorded his first top-10 finish since the 2013 Wells Fargo Championship. … Scott Brown followed up Saturday’s 61 with a 3-under 68 and finished tied for third.