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Despite watery 72nd hole, Straka pulls off PGA triumph

SEPP Straka’s final-round 62 is enough to cushion a disastrous 72nd hole and win the John Deere Classic. | Michael Reaves/agence france-presse

ILLINOIS (AFP) — Sepp Straka’s bid for a sub-60 final round met a watery grave at the 72nd hole on Sunday but he hung on to win the PGA John Deere Classic.

Despite closing with a double bogey, the 30-year-old Austrian fired a PGA career-low nine-under par 62 in the final round to finish 72 holes on 21-under 263 at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois.

That was good enough for a two-stroke victory over Americans Brendon Todd and Alex Smalley, who couldn’t overtake Straka down the last holes.

“It was pretty crazy. I’m just pumped about it. It feels awesome,” Straka said about his second career PGA title.

“The putter was hot and I was able to take advantage of it with some good iron play.”

Straka was 11-under on the day before finding water at 18 and reaching the clubhouse only two strokes ahead of Todd, who had five holes remaining as he tried to end a four-year win drought.

Todd and Smalley each birdied 14 to pull within one but Todd missed a six-foot birdie putt at 15 and made a three-putt bogey at the par-3 16th to fall two adrift again.

Both closed with back-to-back pars to hand Straka hand the triumph.

“The 59 was nowhere in my head really,” Straka said of his closing holes.

“I knew I had a chance but in that situation the only thing that really matters is trying to win the golf tournament.”

That seemed in doubt after he found the water on his approach at 18.

“It was not a good shot, pulled it,” Straka said.

“Wind was off to the right but I was just trying to go to the middle of the green, let it feed down to the left toward the hole. Pulled it early and then the wind drug it over to the water.”

“It was unfortunate but that was the first bad shot I hit today so I’ll give myself a little bit of slack there. Hit a good putt. Broke a little more than I thought it would.”

Straka won his only prior PGA title at last year’s Honda Classic but lost two other 2022 events in playoffs.

Straka’s impressive round began with a birdie putt from just outside five feet at the first hole, followed by a 20-foot eagle putt at the par-5 second.

“Ball just stopped short of the bunker where I could have a stance and hit a really nice iron shot in there and made the putt,” Straka said of his eagle.

After a birdie putt at the fourth from just outside eight feet, Straka landed his approach barely two feet from the hole and birdied the par-4 sixth, then sank a 29-foot birdie putt at the par-3 seventh.

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