Paul Anthony Arco

The Takeaway

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Thrice As Nice

Monday, July 11, 2011


Steve Stricker could own Silvis, Ill., a small town of 10,000.

At the very least, he could give Mayor William Fox a run for his money.

Every year, Stricker is easily the most beloved golfer to play in the John Deere Classic. From the practice range to any tee box, Stricker has the largest following of any golfer at the TPC Deere Run course. And he embraces every minute of it, high-fiving adoring fans who line each fairway waiting for his every move.

Sure, it helps that he's a local golfer of sorts, living just up the road in Madison, Wis. And it doesn't hurt that he plays pretty darn good golf while he's in town.

On Sunday, Stricker continued his John Deere dominance by winning the local event for the third straight year, this time in dramatic comeback fashion, when the 44-year-old calmly drained a 25-foot putt from off the fringe on No. 18 to win yet again.

Maybe they should call it the Steve Stricker Open.

Stricker carded a final-round 2-under 69 to finish the tournament at 22-under 262 to beat Kyle Stanley (263) by one stroke. Stanley was vying to become the fifth rookie to win on the PGA TOUR this season.

Matt McQuillan and Zach Johnson finished T3 at 17-under 267. Charles Howell III and Chez Reavie finished T5 (16-under 268).

Stricker joins Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Johnny Miller and five others since World War II to win a tournament three straight times.

It looked like Stricker might have missed his chance at a three-peat when he fell behind Stanley by two strokes on the back nine, despite leading by five strokes at the turn.

Stanley got hot on the back nine, thanks to five birdies in six holes to pass Stricker, who bogeyed Nos. 15 and 16. But the two-time champ rallied, sinking a 15-foot putt for birdie on No. 17 to pull within one stroke of the rookie. When Stanley missed a par putt from eight feet on No. 18, it opened the door for Stricker's stirring comeback. He hit his approach from the fairway bunker to eight yards off the green, before drilling his winning putt through the fringe.

Stricker raised his arms, pumped his fist and soaked in the roar of the crowd.
Silvis's favorite son had won again.

Stricker now has 11 career wins on the PGA TOUR, including two (John Deere and The Memorial Tournament) this year. Eight of his victories have come after he turned 40. Stricker has won multiple events in three straight years. With the win, Stricker jumped up 10 spots to No. 2 in the FedExCup standings, trailing Nick Watney by 125 points.

Not bad for the old guy.

As for Stanley, still a kid at 23, all is not lost after recording the first top-10 finish in his 32nd career start. He's now made 15 of 20 cuts this season, moved up to 45th in the FedExCup standings and secured his PGA card for 2012. And he's headed to the Open Championship for the first time. Stanley was scheduled to play in the Rockford (Ill.) Pro-Am on Monday. That all changed thanks to his solid play at the John Deere.

Scottish Open

Luke Donald is ready for the Open Championship after firing a 9-under 63 to win the rain-shortened Barclays Scottish Open by four strokes.

Donald shot 19-under 197 to finish ahead of Fredrik Andersson Hed (15-under 201). Donald now has eight wins, including three this year. He will be seeking his first major win at the Open Championship.

Andersson Hed began the final round T44 at 5 under, but made a last-day charge by scoring a tournament low 10-under 62.

Seven players finished T3 at 14-under 202, including Scott Jamieson and Mark Tullo. Jamieson sank a birdie on No. 18 to grab the available qualifying spot for the Open Championship over Tullo, thanks to having a higher ranking between the two golfers.

Other notable golfers included Matt Kuchar (T10), Lee Westwood (T14), Graeme McDowell (T42), and Phil Mickelson (T58).

The tournament was shortened to 54 holes due to rain that wiped out Saturday's play.

Mash Unit

Injuries continue to pile up on the PGA TOUR. Tiger Woods announced on his website last week that he will not play in the Open Championship. Scott Verplank withdrew following his opening round-78 at the John Deere Classic. No word on whether the reason was his year-long wrist injury. Robert Garrigus withdrew due to a sore back after playing just nine holes during the first round. David Toms also played nine holes before leaving with a hip injury, which will keep him out of the Open Championship. Tim Clark also will miss the Open, as will Thomas Levet who has a broken leg. Levet's exemption into the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in early August is now in question. He earned a spot at Firestone when he won the French Open last week.

Stray Shots

Kris Blanks shot a first-round low 63, and finished T12 (13-under 271). Chez Reavie had a second-round low score 62 and finished T5 (268). Stricker and Brendon de Jonge (T7) shot a third-round best 63. McQuillan, Howell III and Briny Baird (T9) shot a low final round 64. de Jonge was looking for his first career win on the PGA TOUR and the last spot in the Open Championship. But after shooting an 8-under 63 during the third round, he fell off on Sunday, finishing with a disappointing final round 74 … Two-time PGA TOUR winner Mark Wilson was in the hunt for the first three days, but a final round 74 did him in as well. Wilson had missed the cut at the U.S. Open and the AT&T National after winning the Sony Open in Hawaii and Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier this year. He finished the John Deere at T30 … McQuillan had missed the cut in his previous 10 tournaments before finishing the John Deere at T3 … John Daly nearly broke Kevin Na's record 16 in one hole when he carded a 13 on the par 4 No. 4 on Friday. Daly shot 81 and missed the cut … It was a bad week for the five former British Open champions who played in the John Deere: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink, Daly and David Duval all missed the cut. Only Todd Hamilton (T22) made it to the weekend.

Rockford Files

My weekend got off to a great start when I took in the third-round action at the John Deere Classic. I enjoy covering the PGA TOUR event at TPC Deere Run for several reasons. The crowds are smaller in comparison to other events, the hospitality is tremendous and the pro golfers are accommodating to the media and fans alike … While 21 golfers made the charter from the John Deere to the Open Championship, a handful of golfers move on to Rockford, Ill. for the annual Pro-Am event at Forest Hills Country Club. The Rockford Pro-Am is the longest-running, free-standing event not affiliated with a professional tournament. For $5, local golf fans get close up to some of golf's best. This year's field includes two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen, Rich Beem, Tommy Gainey, D.A. Points, Skip Kendall, Joe Ogilvie, and Cole Knost. Rockford native and amateur Brad Benjamin is playing in his second Pro-Am. Benjamin won the Public Links in 2009, played in the Masters last year, and made the cut at this year's U.S. Open. It's a great event for a town that is passionate about golf.






Paul Anthony Arco is a freelance writer and contributor to rotoworld.com. He is host of The Golf Show!, which airs Saturday mornings on WNTA 1330 AM (www.wnta.com) in Rockford, Ill. Paul can be reached at paul@paulanthonyarco.com
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