SILVIS – On and on they played Sunday, as the shadows at TPC Deere Run grew ever longer. In a tournament that’s no stranger to playoffs – there have been three here in the last 6 years – this one exceeded even those lofty standards.
It came down to the fifth playoff hole between three players. Thirty-seven year old defending champ Zach Johnson was looking for his 10th PGA Tour win. Nineteen-year-old phenom Jordan Spieth, who left the University of Texas to turn pro this summer, was looking to solidify his spot on the PGA Tour next year. And 34-year-old Canadian David Hearn, with one Web.com Tour win and one Canadian Tour win under his belt, was looking to break though for is first PGA Tour win.
After four pars from all three guys, Spieth – who fired three straight rounds of 65 after an opening 70 – scrambled the best out of the right rough, making a tap-in two-putt par to finish 19 under and secure the victory on the fifth extra hole.
“I went into the day six back, thinking I needed to shoot 8 or 9 under,” said Spieth, who helped the Longhorns win an NCAA title last year. “I just battled and grinded, especially after not being too pleased with bogeying my first hole today, but I just hung in there. I dodged multiple bullets.”
gods up there, I just caught the breaks. Zach and David played great golf, hit great shots, but things somehow parted right for me and went my way.”
Spieth secured a spot in this week’s British Open and a 2-year exeption on the Tour.
The final playoff hole found all three drives in the right rough. Hearn hit a spectator and was a few yards behind the other two, while Johnson and Spieth ended up about 2 yards from each other next to a tree.
Hearn hit short of the water on the left side of the fairway, then knocked his third shot on the green. Spieth, who had a clear shot, knocked his second on the green.
But Johnson, who had his 20th straight JDC round in the 60s, was blocked by the tree. Trying to go for the green because the other two had clear looks, Johnson made it around the tree right in front of him, but it ricocheted off another tree and kicked straight left into the pond. That left him scrambling for a bogey – he eventually made the putt after a dangerous drop shot – but essentially knocked him out of the running.
“I had to get that shot up, but also hit it low,” Johnson said. “They had clear [shots], so I had to give it a shot [going for the green]. It just jumped on me, and you saw the result.
“I’ve played that hole seven times the last two final rounds, so I don’t need to see that many more times.”
Survival was the name of the game for Spieth. He was only in the playoff thanks to a chip-in from the bunker on the 18th hole in regulation. His shot from the right of the green came out hot, bounced once and banged into the cup; had it not bounced into the cup, it would have surely rolled quickly into the water to the left of the green.
“That shot was the luckiest I’ve ever hit in my life,” Spieth said of the chip. “It was going a good 6, 7 feet past, but the fact that it bounced right and hit the pin and dropped down in the cup, it just extremely fortunate. You either pull it off or it ends up in the water, and I got a nice break.”
He then hit a wayward second shot after driving it into the middle of the fairway on the second playoff hole – again, the 18th – and he got up and down from the right side of the green to match the pars by Johnson and Hearn.
“I don’t know what I did to deserve those breaks,” Spieth said, “but I said my prayers, and it worked. I mean, it just happened; I just got so lucky, and that’s what it is.”
The other two had their chances to win it. Johnson was ahead by one shot with one hole to play, but made a mess of the 18th in regulation. He drove into the bunker on the left side of the fairway, then went short and right of the green with his second. His third was a chip that rolled hard past the cup and nearly went into the pond, then his par chip rolled past coming back. He putted out for a bogey, dropping back to 19 under and a four-way tie with Spieth, Hearn and Daniel Summerhays.
The bogey came on the heels of a birdie on the 17th that snapped a string of eight straight pars. One birdie in that stretch birdie by the all-time leader in TPC Deere Run history – he’s got 197 now, seven more than Kirk Triplett and 10 more than Steve Stricker – or a par save from the same bunker where he hit the winning shot in last year’s playoff would have given the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native his second consecutive title at his “fifth major.”
In the playoff, Johnson nearly holed out from behind the green for a birdie to end things on the first playoff hole; As the ball rattled off the flagstick, he collapsed to the ground on the fringe before smiling as he got back to his feet.
He then missed a makeable birdie put on the par-3 16th on the third playoff hole, and couldn’t get up and down from a greenside bunker for birdie on 17.
“I hit my lines in the playoffs,” Johnson said, “I just had a few misreads on putts. I hit solid shots and solid putts, but that’s golf. I mean, I hit great shots; I just didn’t score the last nine holes.”
After almost hitting in the water on 18 in regulation, Hearn had his big chance on the fourth playoff hole. His second shot on the par-5 17th was pin high, but to the left of the green. Spieth was short and right, and Johnson was in the bunker short of the green.
But after knocking his third shot close, he missed the birdie putt, giving life to Spieth and Johnson.
“I figured it was going in,” Hearn said, “but it lipped out. But I was fortunate to hang up on the bank there [on 18 in regulation], so there’s that.
“Overall, I was proud of the way I played all day, and I gave myself great chances. Next time, I’ll make them.”
It looked like it would be a four-way playoff, but Summerhays dropped out with a bogey on the 18th in regulation. He hit his second shot into the greenside bunker, then took two shots to get out of the sand thanks to a plugged, fried-egg lie. His fourth rolled past the cup, and he made the short putt coming back – but it was one stroke too many.
It was tough to swallow for Summerhays, who led the field by two strokes coming into the final round. But he was derailed by four consecutive bogeys on holes 5-8, then saw his back-nine comeback come up short thanks to that one last bogey. His 1-over par 72 made him the lone player to finish in the top 20 to shoot over par.
“I just hit a couple of bad iron shots today,” Summerhays said, “but I was proud of myself for how I battled back from making four bogeys on the front side.
“Golf is just a funny game, a game of inches, and I gave myself a chance right up until the last hole. I’m definitely disappointed, for sure, but I’ll just continue to grow from this. One of these Sundays, it will go my way.”
Johnson and Hearn finished tied for second, while Summerhays settled for a fourth-place tie with Jerry Kelly and Martin Flores at 18 under. Patrick Reed, Matt Jones and J.J. Henry tied for seventh at 17 under.
Fan favorite Stricker, who won the JDC in 2009, ‘10 and ‘11, finished tied with Jim Herman for 10th at 16 under after a seven-birdie, two-bogey round.
2013 John Deere Classic
1. Jordan Spieth 19-under 265*; 2. (tie) Zach Johnson, David Hearn 19-under 265; 4. (tie) Martin Flores, Jerry Kelly, Daniel Summerhays 18-under 266; 7. (tie) J.J. Henry, Matt Jones, Patrick Reed 17-under 267; 10. (tie) Steve Stricker, Jim Herman 16-under 268