The John Deere Classic has another champion that played collegiate golf at the University of Georgia. 9 years after fellow ‘Dawg Brian Harman captured the trophy in Iowa, Austrian-born and Vadolsta-reared Sepp Straka came from 4 shots back on the final day to win the big combine. I don’t type that sentence every day.
The leaderboard was littered with Bulldogs from Day 1 : seven were entered and all seven made the cut. Keith Mitchell was in good shape after Round 2 at 9 under par, just a few off the lead, but a +1 73 Saturday spelled his chances (finished -9, T42). Russell Henley was at -7 after 2 rounds, slightly improving his position to -10 and T35. Rookie Davis Thompson was also -7 at the cut, and his Saturday 65 put him within shouting distance of the leaders going into the final round. Alas, a Sunday 71 at the birdie-fest dropped him back to T31.
Chris Kirk was also scaring the leaderboard after 3 rounds, but finished T21 at 13 under par. Greyson Sigg was 1st page of the leaderboard after opening with 65, then held serve and crept back into the top 20 with a -15 total and T13 finish.
And Brendon Todd ran down the early leaders with steady and sometimes brilliant play, shooting 65-66-65 and taking the 54 hole lead after 3 rounds. It was always tenuous - a single stroke lead on a course that has yielded multiple rounds of 59 and one everyone goes low on is not something you can sleep comfortably with. Sure enough, by the time Todd teed off Sunday his lead was gone. It just happened to be another Georgia Bulldog to do it.
Straka opened with a 73 (I’d take it) - but a score that almost forces you to check your Delta app Thursday night for Friday evening departures. A scorching 63 Friday put Straka on the good side of the cut so no travel arrangements were necessary. Carding a 65 Saturday moved him inside the crowded top 10. At one point there were 20 players within 3 shots of the lead Sunday. Starting 4 shots back of Todd, and with a gaggle of players between them, a spectacular final round was the only shot at the title. That’s just what he did.
Opening with a birdie, he eagled the 2nd hole par 5. Slip in a couple of bars but birdieing everything else, he scored 28 on the opening 9 holes (par 36) and took the lead at the turn. Playing about an hour ahead of Todd, he was giving everyone else a shock and totally on “59 watch”. He was even par on the back nine par 5s, but still 11 under par on his round going into the last 2 holes. A makeable birdie putt on 17 slid by, then a ill-timed pull/draw on 18 into the water gave him a double-bogey. And alas, a 62. It’s hard to say a 62 is disappointing, but it wasn’t exactly exhilarating considering what could have been.
The good news for Straka is that no one could get to his 21 under par total, even though Todd achieve 20 under after 15 holes. An untimely bogey on 16, and missed opportunities at 17 and 18 meant he didn’t convert the 54 hole lead, but Sepp Straka snags the victory and his 2nd PGA Tour victory.
We’ll be back later with updated standings, and a preview of the British Open/Open Championship. Until then, just know that the Georgia Bulldogs are dominating another professional league, getting’ that bag, and painting it Red and Black. As always...