SILVIS, IL. – This was one strange John Deere Classic.
First there was the PGA Tour’s decision to schedule the 46-year old tournament opposite the Olympics instead of July as usual. Then there was the weather; numerous rain delays wreaked havoc with the tournament schedule for three days.
And then there was the lack of drama on Sunday, the best day weather-wise. The JDC is always one of the lowest-scoring tournaments on the circuit and birdies abound in the pressure of the final round in most years. Not Sunday, however.
In the end Ryan Moore “won’’ the tournament with his gritty play on Saturday. No one really challenged him in Sunday’s final round at TPC Deere Run as he led throughout for a two-stroke victory over playing partner Ben Martin.
Moore wasn’t fazed by birdie binges from Morgan Hoffmann and Martin during a long Saturday, one in which many of the players – Moore included – had to play nearly two rounds after numerous rain delays wreaked havoc with the tournament schedule.
It was smoother sailing for Moore on Sunday, however, as he upped a one-stroke lead at the start of the final 18 to three shots on the front nine thanks to birdies at Nos. 2, 4 and 9. Sinking a tricky 24-foot putt at the fourth was key.
“It was important to show the guys behind me that I’m not here to mess around, that I was here to play,’’ said Moore. His lead grew to five when Moore made his last birdie at No. 10 and Hoffmann took a bogey at No. 11.
Martin then made three birdies in a row from Nos. 12-14 to cut his own deficit against Moore to two but Moore’s eight straight pars to finish the round were all he needed to capture his fifth win on the PGA Tour and first since 2014.
“When I had a five-shot lead I knew that wasn’t safe on this golf course,’’ said Moore, whose steadiness was the key to winning. He played the last 46 holes of the tournament without making a bogey and his 67 in the final round led to a 22-under-par 262 score for the 72 holes. That was two strokes better than Martin, who finished with a 68. Korean Wee Kim and Hoffman were another three shots back in a tie for third. Moore earned $864,000 from a purse of $4.8 million.
“Hats off to (Moore),’’ said Martin. “I don’t think he ever really sniffed a bogey. He did what you’re supposed to do when you play with the lead on Sunday. I got to see golf the way you’re supposed to play it from him all day.’’
Of the early starters only Adam Hadwin and Kevin Na maintained significant challenges. Both shot 64 but needed to make up much more ground than that. Peter Malnati also created some excitement, getting to 10-under for the day in his first 16 holes. Needing and eagle-birdie finish for a 59, Malnati faded fast with a triple bogey eight at No. 17 and a bogey at No. 18.
Moore is in his 12th season on tour. He’s one of a handful of players to get PGA Tour playing privileges without ever going to qualifying school. A brilliant amateur career culminated in 2004 when he won the U.S. Amateur, Western Amateur, U.S. Amateur Public Links and NCAA championship. That impressed pro tournament organizers who gave him plenty of sponsor exemptions, and he used those to meet money requirements to continually keep his card.
His professional record, though, isn’t as impressive as his amateur one was.
“Amateur golf and professional golf are two completely different animals,’’ he said. “I fought some injuries and I fought a lot of different stuff over the years. Honestly, just to keep my card for 12 seasons without ever losing it is a bit of an accomplishment these days, as tough as the competition is. I’m slowly trying to get better.’’