Bryson DeChambeau holed a 14-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole at TPC Deere Run to claim his first PGA Tour victory at the John Deere Classic and earn the final place in the 146th Open Championship on Sunday.
The 23-year-old started the final round four shots behind fellow American Patrick Rodgers who was also vying for his first Tour victory.
After playing the front-nine in even par DeChambeau made consecutive birdies at the 10th and 11th holes, followed by two more birdies at the 13th and 14th.
The tournament was still Rodgers’ to lose despite three bogeys in his opening 15 holes, before DeChambeau’s aggression at the par-5 17th paid dividends and identified him as Rodgers’ main challenger. DeChambeau reached the green in two from the right-hand rough, lagging his eagle putt from 40 feet just short of the hole before holing out for birdie. Rodgers would drop a shot at the same hole after finding the trees with his tee shot.
Standing in the 18th fairway playing three groups ahead of Rodgers, DeChambeau admitted that he didn’t intend to hit his approach shot so close to the back left pin, positioned dangerously close to the water guarding the final green.
“I was able to take a pretty aggressive line, but I knew if I pulled a little bit it wouldn't go in the water because the wind,” DeChambeau said of his approach. “So I pulled it just a little bit and pulled it enough to get it close. Then I was able to sink it.”
The American then rolled in his birdie putt for a final round 65 and then waited for his compatriot to finish, with a playoff on the cards if Rodgers could match his birdie and total of 18-under-par.
Rodgers’ approach finished over the green requiring him to hole his chip to force sudden-death, eventually finishing a foot from the hole and giving DeChambeau victory by a shot.
DeChambeau’s emotions then spilled over as he spoke after the victory, which secured the 23-year-old the final place in The Open Championship, and somewhat vindicated his unique approach to the game and his equipment which also helped him win the 2015 US Amateur.
“You're going down the road you've chosen and you're comfortable with it, and you know it's going to in the end be the right thing,” the 23-year-old said of sticking with his scientific approach to the golf swing and his one-length irons and wedges.
The Open will be DeChambeau’s first after losing the exemption he earned with his US Amateur victory when he turned professional after earning Low Amateur honours at the 2016 Masters.
“I've been wanting to go for a long time. When I won the U.S. Amateur I thought I was going, until I turned professional, and that kind of thwarted it a little bit,” he said. “I knew I would be back. I knew I would definitely be back. It's pretty special to play in an Open Championship, the home of golf pretty much, where golf started in that area. It's pretty special to have that first time.”
Cameron Percy’s tie for 12th was the best finish of the Australians in the field, with the Victorian breaking 70 in each of the four rounds for his third made cut in eight starts.