Despite 18th hole disaster, Sepp Straka wins John Deere Classic
Sepp Straka was on fire at TPC Deere Run.
The Austrian PGA Tour veteran started his final round of the John Deere Classic birdie-eagle and kept it up as he was 11 under through 14 holes.
One more birdie over his final four holes and he had a chance at immortality. A 59, a score only shot or bettered 12 times in PGA Tour history.
After failing to grab the elusive final birdie on the par-5 17th, Straka had one last chance at the 18th.
With water looming left, Straka stared down at the back left pin. He wasn’t just playing for 59 though. He was leading by four shots now.
“The 59 was nowhere in my head, really,” he told CBS Sports’ Amanda Renner after he finished. “I knew I had a chance, but in that situation, the only thing that matters is trying to win the golf tournament.”
A par would have easily gotten the win, but his 7-iron from 184 started right at the flag. Then it dove left.
The ball found the pond left and after a drop, wedge and two putts, it was a disastrous double bogey that dropped him back to 21-under.
“I was really just trying to go middle of the green and let it feed down to the left towards the hole,” Straka said. “That was the first bad shot I hit today.”
He watched and waited as Brendon Todd and Alex Smalley tried to catch him over their final six holes. But neither could.
The 62 was still a career-low for Straka and it was also still enough to win the John Deere Classic by two shots over Todd and Smalley. This win is the second career victory for the 30-year-old after he broke through a season ago at the Honda Classic.
It’s also the second time this season a PGA Tour winner doubled the 72nd hole. Emiliano Grillo did it two months ago at the Charles Schwab Challenge before prevailing in a playoff over Adam Schenk.
The win was perhaps more improbable than the chance at 59 for Straka after he started the tournament three over through just 16 holes. After his next 55 holes, he made just one bogey against 25 birdies and an eagle before the 72nd double.
Straka, who entered the week as the 37th-ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking, likely launches him into the conversation for the European Ryder Cup team. He also moves up 32 spots in the FedEx Cup standings, looking to make the Tour Championship for the second time in his career after a T7 finish at East Lake last year.
In a light-hearted twist, Straka stayed in the same house this week with J.T. Poston, Denny McCarthy (who both tied for 6th) and three other pros this week. Poston picked up the bill for the house this year after his win last year, likely meaning Straka will be on the hook for next year.