July 14, 2007

Byrd rallies to win John Deere Classic

A 5-under 66 snags the title and a spot in the British Open.

Jonathan Byrd gets his third PGA Tour Victory.

Jonathan Byrd gets his third PGA Tour Victory.

SILVIS, Ill. (AP) - Jonathan Byrd birdied three of the final five holes and shot 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, 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 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.

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.

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

Although he took several cortisone shots for neck pain two weeks ago and was still not 100 percent this weekend, he was healthy enough to birdie the final three holes Saturday to finish at 14 under. That put him within a shot of Green.

Clark birdied four of the first nine on Sunday to go 18 under and take a three-stroke lead.

Clark went ahead by one stroke with a birdie on No. 3, his second of the round. He tapped in to go 16 under after he nearly aced the hole. Green fell to 15 under when he missed a 13-foot putt for par and settled for bogey. He moved back into a tie with a birdie on No. 4, but slid out of contention from there.

A bogey on 7 put him at 15 under, and another on 12 left him 1 over for the day and in a tie for third at 14 under.

Byrd made a late push with birdies on 14 and 16 to go 17 under. Clark, who was in the final pairing with Green, was at 18 under after a bogey on 15. Things got interesting when he drove his tee shot on 16 into a bunker to the left of the green. He dug out and knocked in a short putt to save par and remain in the lead, but it didn't last.

Best known as the South African not named Ernie Els or Retief Goosen, Clark made a name for himself when he finished two strokes behind Phil Mickelson at Augusta last year. And he made another push for the green jacket this year when he was tied for the lead through 36 holes before finishing in a tie for 13th.

That prize ultimately went to Zach Johnson, who missed the cut at the Deere.

Green, 32, was in good position to earn his first tour victory and become the third Australian in four years to take the Deere Classic, but he could not sustain the momentum built the previous two days.

He had spent three weeks back home in New South Wales, Australia, and the time off helped him clear his mind after missing the cut at the U.S. Open. He played some recreational golf during the break but didn't practice.

He returned to the U.S. on Monday and quickly got over the jet lag, grabbing the lead with a 63 in the second round and maintaining it with a 68 on Saturday.