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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2006 > PGA Tour > John Deere Classic > Round 4
 

JOHN DEERE CLASSIC RELATED STORIES





John Senden gains maiden PGA Tour Victory

John Senden grinned and hugged his coach. He was elated and relieved and, most importantly, a winner on the PGA Tour.

The Australian birdied the 17th hole and saved par on 18 to hold off J.P. Hayes and win the John Deere Classic on Sunday, earning his first PGA Tour victory and qualifying for the British Open.

Making his 139th tour start, Senden shot a 3-under 68 to finish at 19-under 265 and beat Hayes (65) by a stroke.

"It was a feeling of relief that you can get it done," Senden said.

Hayes nearly took it away from him.

Seeking his third tour victory and second in the Deere Classic, Hayes put himself in position for an eagle and the lead on the 17th hole but settled for a birdie instead. He drove his tee shot 335 yards and hit a 5-iron within about 6 feet. His eagle putt rolled to the right of the cup. After a tap-in, he was momentarily tied for the lead.

But Senden took the lead when he birdied the 17th, tapping in from under 2 feet.

Hayes' second shot on 18 landed in a bunker to the right of the green, but his next one rolled just over 4 feet past the pin. He knocked in the short put to save par and remain within a stroke.

Things got interesting when Senden's second shot on 18 landed in the same bunker.

He thought the ball would stay on the green, but he wasn't upset. Senden saw a good angle, and his chip shot landed 5 inches from the hole for an easy tap-in for par and the victory.

"My lie in the bunker was a beautiful lie," he said. "An uphill lie, and all I had to do was splash it out and it was going to track down to the hole. ... I had to be positive. Knocking that last putt in was fantastic."

Alex Cejka (67) and Heath Slocum (68) tied for third at 16 under.

The attention most of the week centered on teen sensation Michelle Wie and her attempt to become the first woman in 61 years to make the cut on the PGA Tour, but she was 8 over and withdrew because of heat exhaustion after nine holes Friday. A day later, Senden stepped into the spotlight.

He shot 64 on Saturday to go 16 under and take a three-stroke lead on Slocum and Patrick Sheehan. It was the first time Senden led after three rounds since joining the tour five years ago. His best previous finish was a tie for fifth at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in January.

"I've been dreaming of it for a long while," Senden said.

He vowed in 1991 to make the PGA Tour by 2000. He played in Asia and made the European tour, but missed that deadline.

He was on this weekend, though.

After a sleepless night, Senden settled down by the time he arrived at the course on Sunday. He had a good warm-up and a better start.

Senden began the final round the same way he opened the previous two: with birdies on the first and second holes and with a morning jolt of confidence.

He was 19 under after a 6-foot putt for birdie on the par-3 seventh, before a bogey on the par-4 ninth -- his first since Friday. He parred his next seven holes, and a two-man game developed with Hayes.

Hayes, who finished a tournament-record 22 under to win here four years ago, was two strokes off the lead at 16 under after a birdie on No. 11 -- his fifth. He was 17 under after a birdie on 14, but he couldn't read the 17th green. His stroke was off, too, and the result was that missed eagle putt.

And a missed opportunity.

"You know, I could have looked at it all day, and I would have been unsure," Hayes said.

Slocum bogeyed No. 2, after his second shot settled on the edge of a pond. He changed clubs and nearly fell into the water at one point, before digging the ball out. Sheehan birdied the first hole but bogeyed the third, before birdies on the fifth and seventh put him at 15 under.

Jason Gore (68) eagled the 10th, 14th and 17th holes to go to 15 under. But he hit a bunker on 18, sent his next shot across the green into the water and double-bogeyed the hole to finish 13 under.

"It was a little firmer than what we were used to," Gore said. "I was trying to get a feel for what the sand was. ... I made a good swing and hit a good shot, (it) just didn't react the way I thought. That is golf; it happens."

Hayes and Senden had better luck getting out of that bunker. And in the end, the Australian celebrated.

"I always thought I could do it and probably had to be a matter of time, because I was playing well the last couple of years," Senden said. "I've improved every single year on the tour. This year has been the best I've been striking it, the best results I've had."

 

 




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