Jordan Spieth completed his Open preparation with a playoff victory over fellow American Tom Gillis in the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Illinois.
Spieth came through at the second extra hole against 46-year-old Gillis to claim his fourth victory of the season and to narrow the gap on Rory McIlroy at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.
Spieth carried a two-shot lead into the final round after a career best of 61 on Saturday. But he opened the door for the chasing pack with a lacklustre front nine of level par on Sunday.
Tom Gillis was the man to take advantage. The veteran, who had only two previous top-three finishes on the PGA Tour from 171 starts, moved two ahead of the field
But Spieth had another gear in reserve. He birdied four holes on the run for home to match Gillis’ clubhouse total of 20-under-par.
Both men parred the first hole of the resulting sudden-death playoff. But, when Gillis fired his tee shot into the rough then his second into water on the second extra hole, the game was up and the win was Spieth’s. Afterwards, the 21-year-old was quick to silence those who criticised his decision to play in this event the week before The Open Championship.
“I came here for a reason, and we accomplished that reason, and certainly have some momentum going into next week,” he said. “I’ve got plenty left in the tank.”
Gillis can console himself with the fact that his runner’s up finish earned him a spot in The Open Championship at St Andrews. For much of the week, he’d insisted he wouldn’t go to Scotland if he won the last available exemption, but after the tournament he had a change of heart.
“I think I was just talking big,” he said. “I don’t have any sweaters. I have nothing but a passport.”
Danny Lee might have made the playoff had he not incurred a penalty for lifting his ball on the fourth fairway. Lift, clean and place had been in operation on Saturday and, in a momentary lapse of concentration, the youngster went through those motions on the 4th, despite the rule not being in place on Sunday.
“I wasn’t thinking, I just put a tee behind the ball, picked it up and thought, ‘oh, wait a minute…’”
John Deere Classic specialist Zach Johnson had another good week, he finished the event in a tie for third with Lee, one shot back.
John Deere Classic
TPC Deere Run, Silvis, Illinois
Purse: $4,700,000, par 70
1 Jordan Spieth (USA) 71 64 61 68 264 $846,000
2 Tom Gillis (USA) 66 65 69 64 264 $507,600
T3 Zach Johnson (USA) 66 68 66 65 265 $272,600
T3 Danny Lee (NZ) 68 68 62 67 265 $272,600
T5 Chris Stroud (USA) 68 68 67 63 266 $171,550
T5 Justin Thomas (USA) 63 67 69 67 266 $171,550
T5 Johnson Wagner (USA) 68 63 68 67 266 $171,550
T8 Kevin Chappell (USA) 68 69 64 67 268 $131,600
T8 Daniel Summerhays (USA) 65 67 68 68 268 $131,600
T8 Steve Wheatcroft (USA) 67 66 70 65 268 $131,600
T8 Will Wilcox (USA) 66 66 69 67 268 $131,600
Note: Player score in bold signifies Titleist ball usage