Zach Johnson birdied the second hole of a sudden-death playoff on Sunday to win the John Deere Classic ahead of Troy Matteson, as Steve Stricker’s three-year reign in the event ended.
Johnson blasted out of a fairway bunker to about a foot from the pin at the second playoff hole — the 18th.
Matteson, who had led after each of the first three rounds, was about 40 feet away after his approach shot from the fairway.
After Matteson left his long birdie attempt short and tapped in for par, Johnson stepped up and made his short putt for the victory.
“I think we’re stating the obvious — that was really good. That was my shot of the week,” Johnson said of his spectacular bunker shot, which was from the same bunker he landed in when the pair opened the playoff at 18.
That time his shot out found the water hazard and he ended up with a double-bogey — but so did Matteson after his punch-out from the right rough also went into the water.
“All in all, you go into a playoff and lose to a shot like that, I mean, that’s an unbelievable shot,” Matteson said. “My hat’s off to Zach. He drove it in the bunker twice and figured out a way to win.”
The playoff followed an action-packed final round that saw Johnson erase a four-shot overnight deficit with a bogey-free six-under 65 for 20-under 264. Matteson carded a one-under 69.
Johnson reached 20-under with a birdie at 17 and was walking to the 18th green with a two-stroke lead when Matteson, whose chances had dimmed with a double-bogey six at the 15th, rattled in a 60-foot eagle putt at 17.
Both parred the last to force the playoff.
Stricker, who was trying to become just the fifth man to win four successive editions of the same tournament, settled for a one-under 70 that left him tied for fifth on 16-under 268, alongside Luke Guthrie (64).
Scott Piercy of the US was third with a 65 that left him two behind Johnson and Matteson on 266.
It was a further stroke back to Australian John Senden on 267. Senden shook off a double-bogey at the first and thrust himself into contention with an eagle two at the par-four 14th, followed by his sixth birdie of the day at 15, but Senden’s challenge ended with bogeys at 16 and 17.
While Matteson missed out on a third career USPGA Tour title, his runner-up finish was enough to gain a place in The Open starting on Thursday at Royal Lytham and St Annes in England.
“This will be my first time over there, and I think I’ve tried to qualify about nine times and haven’t gotten in,” Matteson said.