5 Things: Johnson wins John Deere Classic
Sunday, July 15, 2012
SILVIS, Ill. -- Zach Johnson used a magnificent second shot - and subsequent tap-in birdie - on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff to outlast Troy Matteson and win the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic on Sunday at the par-71 TPC Deere Run.
Johnson fired a bogey-free, 6-under 65 to win a tournament that is only miles from his hometown.
Here are 5 Things to take away from this week in Illinois:
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1. ZACH ATTACK: Johnson didn't need the win to get into next week's Open Championship at Royal Lytham, but his emotions ran deep after securing his first John Deere Classic title of his career.
After he and Matteson both found water on their approaches on the first playoff hole - the par-4 18th, which has water lining the left side of the green - and carded a pair of sloppy double-bogeys, Johnson used an epic 194-yard shot from a fairway bunker on the second playoff hole to about nine inches at the same 18th hole. Matteson couldn't convert on a 40-foot birdie attempt and Johnson took home his second PGA Tour victory of the season.
"I saw it bounce on the green and hoped it would kick left," Johnson said. "I couldn't see the golf ball."
Johnson had missed a cut (St. Jude Classic), finished T-41 (U.S. Open) and T-64 (Travelers) over his past three tournaments, which followed that win at Colonial and two second-place finishes.
It was only Johnson's second time - in 15 weekends - shooting in the 60s in a final round in 2012 (a 68 at the Players Championship led him to a T-2 finish).
Johnson is the third player with two wins on tour this season (Hunter Mahan and Jason Dufner), while this was his fifth top-10 performance.
Tiger Woods leads the tour with three wins. Johnson moved to within 32 points of Woods in the race for the FedEx Cup.
"It just feels awesome," Johnson said. "This tournament has meant so much to me and my family, from when they gave me exemptions to being a part of its board.
"I don't really like making things a bigger deal than what they should be. It means a great deal now that I've done it."
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2. MEN OF TROY: A week after Troy Kelly lost out in a playoff at the Greenbrier Classic, another Troy was in the driver's seat at TPC Deere Run, with Matteson holding a 54-hole lead for the fourth time in his career (he had converted twice).
After a dramatic eagle at the par-5 17th, Matteson sent his drive on the 18th hole to the right and gave himself a tough shot through trees and to the green. Despite the pressure, Matteson managed to run the ball up on the green and gave himself 37 feet for birdie and the win in regulation. He two-putted to force the playoff.
"I was pretty relaxed this week. Usually I'm a Nervous Nelly. Usually I'm pretty bad. I can't sleep at night. I'm like everybody else that plays with a lead," said Matteson.
"I was relatively calm today and not even sure why. Still pretty calm in the playoff. That's not usually the way I am. Hopefully that's a sign of getting older and getting a little bit used to it."
Matteson started the tournament on fire with a 10-under 61 and followed that with rounds of 68 and 66, topped by a 2-under 69 on Sunday.
Matteson, a Georgia Tech product, was struggling coming into the tournament, missing 11 cuts and a T-26 at the Honda Classic in March standing up as his best finish.
Regardless, Matteson will head to Royal Lytham as the best finisher of someone that was not exempt prior to the start of the tournament.
"To go across the pond ‑‑ this will be my first time over ther eand I think I've tried it qualify about nine times and haven't gotten in. This week I finally did," said Matteson.
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3. SHORT OF A STRICKER SLAM: After birdies on Nos. 2 and 3, it looked like Steve Stricker was going to take full advantage of his pairing with Matteson on Sunday.
But Stricker could never really get anything going after that, and bogeys at Nos. 14, 15 and 17 ruined any chances of a four-peat for the Wisconsin native.
Stricker's troubles on the back nine was out of the ordinary, as he was 12 under on them for the week coming into the final round.
His 1-under 70 on Sunday was tied for his worst final round at the John Deere in the past four years.
"Maybe I was trying too hard. I don't know. I don't know really what it was," said Stricker. "I was trying to win the golf tournament. I wasn't worried about four in a row, I was just trying to win.
"I think it's the putter. I really don't have a ton of confidence with that putter. I wasn't feeling very good about it. That's the thing that you need to have working well to win."
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4. TAKING ADVANTAGE: Local boy Luke Guthrie, a former All-American at Illinois, received a sponsor's exemption into the John Deere and gave his fan club plenty to cheer about on Sunday, firing a 7-under 64 to vault up the leaderboard and finish T-5 with Stricker.
Guthrie had an eagle and 20 birdies over the four days at TPC Deere Run, including eight on Sunday after an opening bogey at the par-4 1st hole.
It was Guthrie's second PGA Tour start of the season, also making the cut at the St. Jude Classic, finishing T-19 and earning just under $68,000.
While he only has eight professional rounds on tour, the 64 was his best round of his young career.
"I just love starts and love any opportunity to play golf. Just to compete, I love competing," said Guthrie. "When you're first coming out of college and don't have any status it's kind of hard to find places to play, especially on the PGA Tour and Nationwide.
"Just thankful that I was able to play well enough."
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5. SHORT SHOTS: PGA Tour veteran Lee Janzen picked up his best finish of the season, firing a 4-under 67 on Sunday to finish at 14 under and T-8. It was his first top-10 on tour since a fourth-place finish at the Zurich Classic in 2010 . . . Amateur Jordan Spieth, a soon-to-be sophomore at national champion Texas, capped off a solid week with a 2-under 69 to pick up a T-58 finish. Spieth was the only amateur to make the cut, with Patrick Rodgers missing the weekend despite an opening 67 . . . Ted Potter Jr., a week after his playoff win at Greenbrier, made the cut, but had weekend rounds of 74-72 to fall out of contention and placed T-66 . . . Troy Kelly, the losing half of that Greenbrier playoff, missed the cut by a shot . . . Kyle Thompson has still not made a cut this season, missing his 14th consecutive with rounds of 73-71 . . . Military veteran Billy Hurley III continues to play some solid golf, picking up a second top 10 in his last three tournaments with a T-8 finish behind rounds of 68-68-64-70.