Seamus Power closed with a seven-under 64 to climb to 13th as Sepp Straka shot a closing 62 to leapfrog the leaders and take his second PGA Tour title at the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run.
Power’s 64 was his best of the week and will leave the Waterford man reflecting on what may have been after he’d covered the opening eight holes in -6 on day one. He bettered that on Sunday, eagling the second for the second time this week and making birdies at one, four, five and six to go six-under through six, but eight successive pars followed before he’d pick up another stroke on the closing stretch to post -15 for the week.
“I know my golf recently has probably put me out of the (Ryder Cup) fold, but this is a step in the right direction,” said Power, “so the next couple of weeks will be big, especially with a Major coming up in The Open, and then I know that the FedEx Cup play-offs will be huge for me as well. So I’ve got some good opportunities but a lot of work to do.”
Austrian Straka covered the opening nine in -7, after making a near-identical start to Power but adding another birdie on the ninth as he went out in 28 to move top of the leaderboard. After failing to birdie the par-5 10th, 59 watch was truly on when he’d birdie the next four to get to -11 for the round with four holes to go.
He’d miss birdie putts on 15, 16 and 17, the closest being from nine feet at the latter, and reached the closing hole needing birdie to shoot a magical sub-60 number. After finding the fairway bunker off the tee, he dismissed thoughts of shooting 59 and aimed for the fat part of the green but hooked his approach badly and found the hazard, leading to a double bogey-six.
With Brendon Todd and Alex Smalley still several holes from the finish and now within touching distance, Straka headed to the practice range a little hot under the collar, but when Todd, his nearest challenger three-putted the 16th to fall two back and then failed to birdie 17, the big Austrian could relax knowing that one bad swing hadn’t proven too costly.
At -21, he’d eventually run out a two-stroke winner over Todd and Smalley, with Ludvig Aberg and Adam Schenk one further adrift on -18.
“I wasn’t going to change my game plan or strategy for the 59,” Straka said. “The goal was still to keep the same game plan and try to finish and win a golf tournament. As fun as the 59 would be, I think winning the golf tournament is always more fun.
“I hit the ball really solid, but I just pulled it way left of my target. So, yeah, it was an unfortunate time for a bad swing, but thankfully it didn’t hurt me.”
Straka is one of several potential Ryder Cup options for Luke Donald, and he certainly feels that he has the game for the big occasion. “At my best, I do feel like I can compete with anybody. Obviously the last three days I could have competed with just about anybody in the world, but growing up I never would have thought I would have a chance to even play on the PGA Tour,” Straka said. This is all just a big dream come true.”
Aberg is another who’s very much on the Ryder Cup radar and his T4 finish was his best since turning professional in late May, but was understandably coy when asked if he felt that he was capturing Donald’s attention.
“I guess a little bit,” he conceded, “but all I can do is try to prepare as good as I can and play as good of golf as I can and see where that takes me.”