PGA Tour
Stricker works hard for 3rd straight John Deere title



Silvis, IL (Sports Network) - Steve Stricker rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt from off the green at the 18th hole Sunday to earn his third consecutive victory at the John Deere Classic.

Stricker actually birdied his last two holes and benefited from a Kyle Stanley bogey at the last.

After the Stanley hiccup at 18, Stricker was tied for the lead, but had an awkward stance in a fairway bunker. He hit a spectacular approach over water, from the sand, that just rolled off the putting surface.

Stricker walked up and holed the putt for his third straight John Deere title, his second win this year to go along with the Memorial and his 11th PGA Tour victory.

"Believe it or not, I was thinking three, that's why I went back to six-iron," Stricker said on television. "I got a good stance. I really thought I could pull that shot off. To make that putt is a bonus obviously, but what a day."

Normally calm and stoic, Stricker let out a massive roar and big fist pump after the winning putt fell. He grew up in Wisconsin and attended the University of Illinois, so this son of the Midwest is a crowd favorite.

Now Stricker is off to Royal St. George's for next week's British Open Championship. At 44, Stricker is still majorless, but with this win on Sunday, he joined Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and others as players to win the same PGA Tour event three years in a row.

Stricker finished with a two-under 69 and won the tournament at 22-under 262.

Stanley's bogey at the last was a tough one to swallow. His nine-foot par putt lipped out of the hole and the bogey was the one stroke that separated the two.

Stanley rode a hot putter on the back nine to a five-under 66. He came in second at minus-21 and it was the best finish to date for the PGA Tour rookie.

Former Masters champion Zach Johnson (65) and Matt McQuillan (64) shared third at 17-under 267.

Stricker began the final round with a two-shot lead and any thoughts of an 18- hole coronation were quickly dismissed. He birdied one, but double-bogeyed the fifth when he left one in the bunker.

But Stricker atoned for the error at five in a big way. He sank a six-foot birdie putt at six, a shorter one for birdie at eight and a 50-footer for birdie at the ninth. Stricker was five shots clear, but things were about to get tight.

Stanley birdied the par-five 10th and the 12th to trim the gap. He rolled in a 26-foot birdie putt at 13 and a 17-footer at 14 and all of a sudden, Stanley trailed by only one.

At the 15th, Stanley sank yet another long birdie putt, this time from 36 feet. That tied him for first with Stricker, but Stricker drove into the left rough one group later and was forced to pitch back to the fairway. Stricker made bogey and what was a five-shot lead six holes prior, was now a one-stroke deficit.

The par-three 16th looked like it might be another swing hole. Stanley stiffed his tee ball to eight feet, but his putt never moved from its line right of the cup. He settled for par, but Stricker landed in a bunker at 16 and made bogey to fall two back with two to play.

Stanley hit a terrible drive into a right hazard at the par-five 17th, but saved par. Stricker missed the green in two and hit a clunky pitch 15 feet from the hole. Stricker, always considered one of the game's best putters, drained the birdie to get within one.

"I had a good feeling on that putt," Stricker said in a televised interview. "I've had that putt before."

Stanley hit an iron off the 18th tee, but still couldn't stop it from finding the tall grass on the right. He hit a good enough second over a tree into a bunker, then blasted out to nine feet. Stanley hit what appeared to be a good putt, but the ball caught the left lip and stayed above ground.

The bogey tied the two, then Stricker hit the eye-opening six-iron with the ball well below his feet, in a bunker and over water to 25 feet.

"I don't know how to explain that," Stricker said. "Kyle made some birdies there on the back and I wasn't hitting it close enough and giving myself opportunities.

"I feel bad for Kyle."

So did Stanley, albeit briefly.

"It's tough, but I'm happy," Stanley said on television. "I'm getting better and that's the most important thing. It always hurts bogeying the last, but I did a lot of really, really good things this week."

Charles Howell III (64) and second-round leader Chez Reavie (72) shared fifth at minus-16, while Cameron Percy (69) and Brendon de Jonge (74) tied for seventh at 14-under 270.

NOTES: Stricker pocketed $810,000 for the win and moved to second on the FedExCup points list...He became the fourth multiple winner this season on tour...The consolation prize for Stanley, he gained a spot in the field for the British Open as the top finisher not already qualified...Next week is the British Open, which Louis Oosthuizen won last year, and the Viking Classic, which was captured by Bill Haas in 2010.

07/10 19:11:42 ET