SILVIS, Illinois On a classic, sun-drenched Midwestern summer afternoon, Steve Stricker shot rounds of 68-64 in a 36-hole Sunday finale to win the 39th John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run.
The 42-year-old Wisconsin native and University of Illinois graduate finished at 20-under par, winning by three strokes over local hero Zach Johnson, Brandt Snedeker, and Brett Quigley. It was Stricker's sixth career victory and his second of the current season. It was a victory thousands of fans warmly embraced.
"This is a great event," Stricker said afterward. "They make you feel so welcome here and do such a first class job. John Deere is a great sponsor. The course is very fun to play... I know firsthand that all the players that come here very much enjoy coming here."
Stricker had a one-stroke lead over Tim Petrovic going into the par 5 17th hole. Stricker hit the green with his second shot and made birdie, giving him a two-stroke lead over Petrovic, who had to settle for par after pulling his tee shot into the left rough.
Stricker said he was proud his victory didn't come as a result of others' mistakes but rather his own play.
"I tried to think of some players today," Stricker said. "Obviously, Tiger was right there. I thought about Hal Sutton when he took down Tiger at The Players Championship. I thought about him and just try to step up and hit the shot and be aggressive and try to control my own destiny. I thought I did that today."
Johnson had posted his 17-under total while Stricker still had several holes to play. The native of Cedar Rapids, Ia. shot 64-66 on Sunday, leading to his best finish ever at the John Deere Classic, where he is a member of the tournament's executive board. Johnson finished his round on the ninth hole, as the field went off both tees in threesomes in order to finish on time as a result of rain washing out all play on Friday.
Stricker put himself in contention during Saturday's second round when he shot a course-record-tying 10-under par 61 following an opening round even-par 71 on Thursday.
Stricker holed out twice from the fairway during the tournament, including once in the final round, leading him to believe he might be able to win.
"I kind of felt this could be my week," Stricker said. "I did that twice this week, holing out from the fairway. That kind of got my momentum going. Kind of made me feel like if I continue to play the way I'm playing I would have a chance at winning."
Snedeker's Sunday rounds of 68-65 got him into the three-way tie for second. Like Stricker and Johnson, he flew to the British Open on a charter jet that left from the Quad City International Airport shortly after the tournament. A total of 23 British Open-eligible players competed in this year's John Deere Classic.
Quigley, the only one of the four top finishers not previously exempt for the British Open, declined the exemption he earned by finishing in the top five.
Stricker is the No. 6-ranked player in the world. Defending champion Kenny Perry, ranked No. 4, finished at 4-under par.
Stricker received a winner's check of $774,000, but his eyes lit up when John Deere President and Chief Operating Officer Sam Allen handed the keys to a John Deere riding lawn mower during the trophy presentation ceremony. "I'm gonna keep this one," he said.