SILVIS, Ill. (AP) — Lucas Glover made his third straight birdie and knew winning the John Deere Classic was in reach with a one-shot lead and four holes to go.
But this was not the time to be thinking about ending 10 years without a PGA Tour trophy. Conditions were too soft and pure. There were too many birdies to be made, and too many players behind him.
“Push, push, push,” Glover said. “And I think that kept me from getting complacent, kept me from getting too nervy, because I knew it was going to take a bunch more under par.”
He finished with five birdies over his last seven holes for a 7-under 64 and a two-shot victory Sunday, ending 244 consecutive starts since he last won at Quail Hollow in May 2011.
“I felt good golf coming,” Glover said. “I didn’t know how good.”
It had to be to win at TPC Deere Run, where the greens were soft from rain but still smooth as can be, the perfect recipe for birdies.
Glover was in log jam that at one pointed featured 25 players separated by three shots. Someone had to emerge, and it turned out to be him.
It started with a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-3 12th hole. He hit his approach into 4 feet and 7 feet on the next two holes, and then flushed a 7-iron to 3 feet on the 15th hole to take the lead.
Glover finished his run with a 12-foot birdie on the par-5 17th, and a 6-foot putt to save par from the bunker on the 18th that he figured would come in handy.
It never got to that. No one could catch him. He finished at 19-under 265 for his fourth career PGA Tour victory.
Kevin Na tried to make a run with three birdies in four holes until he was slowed by a bogey on the 15th and couldn’t make up enough ground. He shot a 68. Ryan Moore also closed with a 68 for a runner-up finish.
Sebastian Munoz of Colombia, who started the final round with a one-shot lead, hit a shank from an awkward stance with the ball above his feet on the first hole. He made bogey and it was a sign of struggles to come. He closed with a 71 and tied for fourth, three shots back.
“Took me three holes to readjust from that, and then did a good job from there,” Munoz said.
Also finishing three shots behind were Adam Schenk (67), Luke List (68) and Scott Brown (69).
The only time Glover felt pressure was when he had time on his hands, some 30 minutes of waiting to see if anyone could match his score.
The victory sends him back to the Masters and the PGA Championship, and it allows him to start his year on Maui at the Tournament of Champions on a Kapalua course he hasn’t seen since Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas were freshmen in college.
“I’ve always been a big believer in there’s nothing guaranteed in this game,” Glover said. “It can be easy one day and be really, really, really hard the next. Yeah, it’s been a difficult 10 years, but I never lost my faith, never lost my drive, never lost the self-belief.
“It’s a great feeling.”
Schenk had a one-shot lead with five holes to play as he sought his first PGA Tour victory. But on the reachable par-4 14th hole, he went well right into a nasty lie in the thick, wet rough. He came up short of the green in more deep grass, chipped some 20 feet long and made bogey.
Glover was playing alongside him and made another birdie for a two-shot swing. Glover kept going and Schenk had to settle for pars.
The victory at the 50th edition of the John Deere Classic makes Glover exempt on the PGA Tour through 2023, significant for a 41-year-old who had to go through the Web.com Tour Finals in 2015 just to get his full card back.
“It’s been a long 10 years. There’s been some struggles,” Glover said. “I knew it was in there. I had to clean up my brain a little bit and just hit some shots, just play golf. I never lost sight of believing I could do this and win again. It’s always nice to prove yourself right.”
Glover already was in the British Open from having reached the Tour Championship in 2019 (the 2020 British Open was canceled by the pandemic). Moore earned the lone spot at Royal St. George’s, though it was unclear he was going to take it.