Ok, I like my crow with a little salt and pepper. If you read my blog on Saturday, Zach Johnson: On The Ryder Cup Bubble, you probably figured out, that I didn’t think Zach could make the Ryder Cup if he didn’t snag a win before the field was set. In other words, he would have to play his way on the team and probably would not receive a Captain’s pick.
Local boy Zach Johnson did just that on Sunday, at The John Deere Classic in Silvis Illinois, just across the river from his home state of Iowa. He hit a 200 yard 6 iron out of the fairway bunker on the second playoff hole(#18) and showed us the tenacity that won the 2007 Masters. With a shot that favored his natural draw, it rolled up onto the green and stopped less than three feet from the pin. It broke Troy Matteson’s heart.
After a mediocre opening round of 68 on Thursday, Zach shot 65, 66, 65 in the final three rounds, and finished regulation at 20 under par(-20) tied with Troy Matteson. His Birdie barrage started on 7th hole, and with a bogey free round, he would card a clubhouse lead at 20 under par and wait for Matteson to finish.
Matteson, who was partnered up on the day with three time winner and defending champion Steve Stricker, had a less than stellar round where after a double bogey at the 15th, I figured he was done, until he dropped a putt at 16 that looked like Dale Earnhardt Jr doing laps at Daytona before finding the bottom of the cup for an Eagle three.
The playoff started with two replay’s of the 18th hole. On the first replay, Zack, who has trouble working the ball left to right, landed in the fairway bunker 200 yards from the green.
Troy Matteson blocked his tee shot high and right, into the spectators. His ball was picked up by a youngster who thought he had found a souvenir. After consulting the PGA official and getting his ball spotted, he looked to have access to the pin if he was willing to go over a tree that was between his ball and the green. He elected to lay up to the left, but hit his shot too hard and went into the water hazard.
Zach Johnson hit his patented draw from a lie in the bunker where he didn’t really have room to stand. His shot found the water hazard some 30 yards ahead of where Matteson had went in. The two golfers swapped double bogey’s and went back to play the 18th one more time.
Zach hit his tee shot in the same bunker but with more room to stand this time. Troy’s tee shot found the fairway just right of the bunker and maybe 5-10 yards closer. Zach would pull off a bunker shot that would make Tiger Woods turn green with envy. A surprised Troy Matteson would hit his approach shot and leave himself a putt in excess of 25 feet. After an effort that ended up short and left, Zach Johnson would tap in for birdie and notch his second win of the season.
The win at Deere Run vaulted Johnson into 2nd place in FedEx Cup points, but more importantly, pushed him to fifth place in Ryder Cup points, putting Hunter Mahan on the bubble. This win should gaurantee him a trip to Medina in September and a date with the Europeans.
A very tired looking Steve Stricker, had a terrible round of golf on Sunday where he bogeyed 14, 15 and 17 on his way to a one under par 70 on the day and a tie for fifth place. Until his late round bogey’s he didn’t play that badly, but was unable to get the ball close on the greens, and couldn’t find the magic he usually has with the flat stick. I think his problems started Saturday evening where he hit his tee shot on 18 right and ended up with a bogey.
Sunday’s action at The John Deere Classic was some of the better golf we have seen this summer. It was a tournament that by the time they made the turn, there were four golfers that all had a chance to win. John Senden and Scott Piercy were both in it until the end. With all players in the top five, getting an invitation to Royal Lytham St Anne’s for next weeks Open. I hope they all brought passports to Illinois.
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