SILVIS, Ill. (AP) — Troy Matteson shot a 5-under 66 Saturday to take a three-shot lead into the final round at the John Deere Classic.
Steve Stricker, who also shot a 66, sits in second place at 15 under in his quest for a fourth straight tournament title. Stricker birdied four straight holes beginning at the 14th, but bogeyed the par-4 18th, stubbing a chip shot and missing a 15-footer for par.
Both Matteson and Stricker bogeyed the last hole, setting up their final-round pairing together at TPC Deere Run, where Stricker, a Wisconsin native who was an all-American at Illinois, has become a local favorite by winning the last three years.
Former Masters champion Zach Johnson also carded a 66 to climb into contention at 14 under, along with left-hander Brian Harman.
Billy Hurley, J.J. Henry and 2006 champion John Senden are tied for fifth, five strokes behind. Hurley’s 64 matched the best round of the day, while Senden eagled the par-5 second hole en route to a bogey-free 67.
“It’s great for me if I win,” said Matteson. “If Stricker wins, it’s a really big story.”
Stricker is attempting to join Tom Morris Jr., Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and Tiger Woods as a winner four straight times in the same tournament. Woods has accomplished the feat twice.
“I can’t even believe three years have gone by,” said Stricker, who was five strokes behind Matteson at one point during the back nine.
His 76-yard wedge shot to the par-4 14th green landed two feet from the hole to set up the first of four straight birdies. He sank a 5-footer at the 15th, a 6-footer at the 16th, and an 11-footer at the par-5 17th after missing the fairway with his tee shot and sending his approach into a greenside bunker.
“Those were four nice birdies in a row, which I really needed,” Stricker said.
The final one made up for the bogey on the last hole, set up by shoving his tee shot into a grove of trees to the right of the fairway. Nonetheless, he posted his 37th under-par round at Deere Run in 39 attempts, and is 109 under par at the course since the tournament moved here in 2000.
Johnson, whose gallery in the third round rivaled Stricker’s, is from nearby Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and is a member of the tournament’s board of directors. While chasing his first win at Deere Run, he understands Stricker could make history.
“If I can’t win it, I wouldn’t mind seeing him win it,” Johnson said. “It’s not hard to be a fan of his. But anything can happen. There are guys behind making birdies.”
Deere Run, one of the easiest courses on the PGA Tour, is a haven for birdies and eagles, and Matteson also took advantage.
“Making two birdies early got me relaxed,” Matteson said. “But the bogey on 18, that was just a mismatched putt I hit downhill too hard.”
In contrast to Stricker and Johnson, Matteson played in relative seclusion, even though he was in the final pairing with Harman. There was little applause when his approach shot landed on the 18th green.
“Nobody’s paying attention to what I do,” Matteson said. “I just kind of play. I’m in a different position in life (than Stricker and Johnson). These guys are Ryder Cuppers, winning major championships. People buy tickets to see them.
“You have to put in the years to get on the other side of the fence.”
Hurley’s bogey-free 64 catapulted him from 31th into a deadlock for fifth, but the PGA Tour rookie is five behind Matteson, and with pedigreed players ahead of him.
The day’s other 64 was posted by Jamie Lovemark, who made the cut with a stroke to spare. He’s tied for eighth, his best position entering a final round since undergoing back surgery last year.
While Stricker chases both Matteson and some of the game’s most notable names, Matteson also has history to shoot for: Nobody’s won wire-to-wire in the Quad Cities since David Frost in 1992, when the tournament was called the Hardee’s Golf Classic.
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