By RICK BROWN
John Deere Classic Correspondent
SILVIS, Ill. – Ryan Moore came to the John Deere Classic with his game on an uptick. He left as a champion. And that was the plan.
“I played pretty well last week, and I came here to win a golf tournament,” said
Moore, 33, after a bogey-free 4-under-par 67 at TPC Deere Run gave him a two-shot victory over Ben Martin and his fifth career PGA Tour title.
Moore, who had tied for 17th at the Travelers Championship a week ago for his best finish on tour since March, also improved on an impressive streak of Deere finishes. He tied for eighth in 2012, tied for seventh in 2014 and has finished 24th or better every year since 2012.
“It’s a golf course I’ve enjoyed,” Moore said. “One I’ve grown to like more over the last few years. I’ve come to appreciate how well it does fit me and suit my game. I think that’s where the good play comes from. Just being comfortable and confident. When I show up here, I feel like I can win.”
Moore’s closing 67, following a trio of 65s, was his 23rd straight subpar round at TPC Deere Run. Moore’s winning total, 262, was 22 shots under par.
The victory was worth $864,000 to Moore. It also vaulted him from 62nd to 23rd on the FedExCup Playoffs points list. The playoffs start in two weeks at the Barclays.
Sunday marked the eighth time Moore took a 54-hole lead into the final round of a PGA Tour event. He’s now won four of those eight. His last PGA Tour victory came at the 2015 CIMB Classic in Malaysia, a World Golf Championships event.
The secret to Moore’s success was consistent play from tee to green.
“I like how steady it was,” Moore said. “This was the kind of golf I feel like I can play. Just really solid, really steady, no bogeys on the weekend.”
Moore made just two bogeys in 72 holes, and none over his final 46 holes. That streak goes back to the 8th hole in his second round. Moore hit 60 of 72 greens in regulation, and averaged 28 putts per round.
“It’s the best I felt over the putter in awhile,” Moore said. “Maybe years.”
The champion found just two bunkers, and got up-and-down from both of them.
Precision golf like that gave Moore the luxury of finishing the championship with eight straight pars.
“I just told him, “You couldn’t make one bogey out there for me today?,” Martin said.
Moore didn’t exactly have it on cruise control the back nine. He said he was trying to make birdies. But his consistent play was the lifeline that got him to the winner’s circle.
“I played so steady the whole week, but to say at any point today I was comfortable would not be true,” Moore said.
But no one got hot enough on the back nine to catch him.
“Solid play, and not making any bogeys, gave me that cushion and made it so I could just make eight pars in the last eight holes,” Moore said.
Moore’s lead was five shots with seven holes to play. Then Martin ran off three straight birdies to cut it to two with four holes to play. But Moore didn’t buckle, playing consistent golf to the finish line.
Martin closed with a 68 and finished second alone at 20-under-par 264. Martin also jumped from 121st to 59th in the FedEx Cup Playoffs point list.
“I really needed to have a good week to take the pressure off,” Martin said.
Whee Kim and Morgan Hoffmann shared third place at 267, five behind Moore. Kim closed with a 67, while Hoffmann treaded water with a 71.
“I just wanted to make a putt, which didn’t happen all day,” Hoffmann said.
The John Deere Classic will return to July in 2017 after moving to August this year because of the Olympics. The 2017 John Deere Classic will take place July 13-16.
Steve Stricker, a three-time champion here, thinks the return to July will help this annual PGA Tour stop.
“You’ll get some guys that will want to play the week before (the Open Championship), and then take the charter (jet) over,” Stricker said. “I think that’s a better spot for (the John Deere Classic).”
Stricker, whose three straight titles came in succession (2009-2011), is a Wisconsin native who played his college golf at Illinois. His John Deere Classic memory bank is overflowing.
“It’s still great to come here,” said Stricker, who never found his rhythm at TPC Deere Run and finished at 5-under-par 279. “I love coming here and it’s a special place for me.”
Zach Johnson, who snapped Stricker’s run of dominance in 2012, didn’t have a vintage weekend. He finished at 9-under-par 275 after a final-round 68. Johnson had finished in the top three at the five previous Deere Championships.
“I didn’t have my “A’ game, aside from one day (a 65 Thursday),” Johnson said.
It was a good week for sponsor’s exemptions at the Deere. Jon Rahm led the way at 13-under-par 271. Rahm shot 69-66-69-67.
Aaron Wise, who won the NCAA Championship this spring playing for Oregon and then won an event on the Mackenzie Tour after turning professional, finished a shot behind Rahm. Wise shot 69-70-63-70. Former Illinois star Charlie Danielson was at 11 under (67-71-66-69) and Robby Shelton of Alabama finished 10 under (71-68-64-71).
“I learned so much this week,” Danielson said. “I learn every week, but to be able to play all four days out here against some of the best players in the world, it’s unique.”