Stricker holds off Goydos

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Steve Stricker shot his highest round of the week but still won the John Deere Classic by two strokes.

US Ryder Cup star Steve Stricker shot a week’s highest 70 but still won by two strokes as he successfully defended his John Deere Classic title in Illinois.
The 43-year-old World number four collected the ninth PGA Tour victory of his career, the sixth since turning 40, and his second of the year after closing with a four-birdie, three-bogey, one-under-par 70 at the TPC Deere Run to finish at 26 under par and defeat fellow American Paul Goydos by two shots..
Goydos, who shot a final-round 66, had made the last day a contest as he chased down Stricker’s commanding six-stroke overnight lead, the defending champion having started at a PGA Tour 54-hole record 25 under par following rounds of 60, 66 and 62 at the par-71 course in Silvis.
Yet Stricker did enough to close out the victory to climb to second place in the FedEx Cup standings and head to St Andrews for next week’s Open Championship in good heart.
He said: “It was a tough day, a grind and Paul played well. He brought a lot of pressure on me, but I was able to hang on.
“It feels good. I’m excited and I did a lot of good things this week, putted great and hit the ball great for three days.
“Today was a little spotty at times but I’m excited for next week.”
Stricker began his final round with back-to-back birdies to stay on course for a number of PGA Tour scoring records, including Ernie Els’ 31-under-par lowest 72-hole score in a four-round tournament set at the 2003 Mercedes Championship.
Goydos, who shot an opening round 12-under-par 59, also had two early birdies and when Stricker hit trouble at the fourth with a bogey at the par-four he closed the gap to four strokes with a birdie at the par-four fifth.
Goydos went bogey, birdie at the seventh and eighth holes and as the leaders turned for home Stricker’s lead remained at four with his score at 26 under.
Goydos and Jeff Maggert were tied for second at 19 under at the start of the day with both gunning for the last remaining spot at thius week’s Open, but 46-year-old Maggert could not close the gap, shooting a 70 to finish alone in third at 20 under.
“It was a goal in January,” Goydos said of qualifying for St Andrews. “I tried to qualify and didn’t get in on the money list and this was my last hope.
“I started out pretty good this week and just hung in there.”
Former US PGA champion Shaun Micheel made it an all-American top four, closing with a 67 at 19 under.
Australia’s Matt Jones was the leading international player, in fifth place at 17 under.
American Vaughn Taylor (67) was sixth on 16 under with Players champion Tim Clark of South Africa (66) part of a three-way tie for seventh at 15 under with Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge (69) and Charley Hoffman (65) of the USA.
Norway’s Henrik Bjornstad was the leading European in the field, closing with a one-under 70 at nine under.
Brian Davis of England finished with a 72 at six under with Sweden’s Daniel Chopra and Richard S Johnson both fading down the stretch. Both shot 74s, Chopra finishing at two under and Johnson at one over, one of only three players over par for the tournament.

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