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Byrd’s strong finish captures John Deere Classic



Published: Mon, July 16, 2007 @ 12:00 a.m.

The one-shot victory also qualified him for this week’s British Open.

SILVIS, Ill. (AP) — Jonathan Byrd didn’t like the leaderboard on his way to the 14th hole, and things weren’t looking much better for him when his tee shot sailed wide right.

Then, his fortunes changed.

He birdied that hole, added two more on 16 and 17, and finished with a 5-under 66 Sunday to win the John Deere Classic and qualify for the British Open.

It was the third PGA Tour victory for Byrd, who finished the tournament at 18-under 266 — one stroke ahead of Tim Clark (68). Third-round leader Nathan Green (71) finished in a tie for third with Troy Matteson (66) three strokes back.

Byrd had missed four straight cuts and didn’t bother to bring his passport, so he had to go home to Georgia before heading to Scotland.

“I haven’t been playing well, and, I don’t know, maybe I thought that would be a jinx or something,” he said.

Birdied 17 to take lead

Byrd, who won the 2002 Buick Challenge and the 2004 B.C. Open, moved into a tie with Clark with a birdie on 17. Clark found a bunker short of the green on 17 and sent a 6-foot putt for par wide left for a bogey that put him at 17 under and in second place.

“On 17, I had a go at the green, and that’s really the only shot of the day I mis-hit,” he said. “I fully expected to be able to get it up to the green-side bunker, and instead, it plugged in the lip of the bunker 20 yards short of the green. And from there, I just had no play.”

Byrd finished with a par on 18, meaning Clark needed a birdie to force a playoff. That didn’t happen.

Instead, Byrd watched as Clark’s approach on the par-4 hole settled on the left edge of the green — just under 71 feet from the cup. His putt for birdie rolled wide left, giving Byrd the victory and a spot in the British Open.

“Right when he hit it, the announcer said he thought it was a little bit left,” said Byrd, who finished a few minutes earlier. “I had kind of hit that putt for more the middle of the green, and I knew it wasn’t going to come back to the right.”

It didn’t, and that secured his third win — the most by an active American-born player under 30. Charles Howell III has two victories.

Early on, Clark appeared poised to earn his first tour victory.

He took several cortisone shots for neck pain two weeks ago and had said he might skip the British Open even if he qualified at the Deere because he was worried the pain would flare up on the long flight. Sunday, he said he would have gone but that became a non-issue late in the day.


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