• Spieth builds Open momentum with PGA playoff victory

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    Jordan Spieth walks up to the 17th green during the final round of the John Deere Classic held at TPC Deere Run on Monday in Silvis, Illinois. AFP PHOTO

    Jordan Spieth walks up to the 17th green during the final round of the John Deere Classic held at TPC Deere Run on Monday in Silvis, Illinois. AFP PHOTO

    SILVIS, United States: Reigning Masters and US Open champion Jordan Spieth defeated Tom Gillis on the second playoff hole on Sunday (Monday in Manila) to capture the John Deere Classic, the final US PGA tuneup for next week’s British Open.

    Coming off his second John Deere title in three years will give Spieth an extra spring in his step as the world number two tries to continue his run at history at St. Andrews, where Spieth could become the first man since 1953 to win the first three golf majors of the year.

    The 21-year-old American parred the second playoff hole while Gillis missed the fairway with his tee shot and then found the water on his second shot at the TPC Deere Run.

    “It feels great,” said Spieth, who also won in a playoff in 2013. “The memories we have here and to go back in a playoff and we were reliving some of the conversations.

    “Not the best start, but I am certainly OK with the outcome.”

    Spieth closed with a three-under par 68 to equal Gillis at 20-under-par 264. Gillis, who was three groups ahead of Spieth, fired a 64.

    Once again, Spieth showed his flair for the dramatic as he rallied from eight shots off the lead after round one to earn his fourth US PGA victory of the season and the fifth of his career.

    Spieth came back from six shots back here in 2013 for his first career win, becoming the first teen to win on the US tour in 83 years.

    Spieth was criticized for playing the John Deere this week instead of heading to Europe to prepare for the Open, but it appears he made the right move as he aims to join Ben Hogan as the only players to win the first three majors of a season.

    “I just needed to get some more repetitions,” said Spieth. “I practiced with my coach last week but didn’t play much golf.

    “But then I started hitting the ball more solidly and started making some putts.”

    Spieth is now just one win short of tying Tiger Woods for the most wins on the PGA Tour before the age of 22.

    Gillis, 46, will have to console himself by claiming a spot in the British Open for the third time, having also competed in 1999 and 2008.

    Former winner Zach Johnson fired a 65 and was joined in third place on 265 by last week’s Greenbrier Classic champion Danny Lee (67) of New Zealand.

    Americans Johnson Wagner (67), Chris Stroud (63) and Justin Thomas (67) shared fifth at 266.

    Spieth gains confidence
    Spieth got off to a slow start Sunday with a bogey on number one, birdie on two and bogey on number three. He caught fire down the stretch, closing with four birdies on the last six holes.

    Both Spieth and Gillis parred the first playoff hole at 18. They returned to 18 for the second playoff hole and Spieth put his tee shot down the middle of the fairway. His approach landed on the green and he just missed his first long putt but made no mistake on a two-footer for par.

    Gillis, who was trying to win his first US PGA Tour title, missed the fairway right with his tee shot which put him in the difficult position of having to hit through the trees to get on the green.

    His second shot skipped across the fairway and into the water on the left side leading to a penalty and all but ending his chances against Spieth, who is the hottest putter on the tour right now.

    “To go low, you have to make putts, and once I started seeing the ball go in the hole, it gave me a lot of confidence,” Spieth said.

    AFP

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