Stricker on track but Matteson blitzes field in Illinois
American Steve Stricker made a solid start in his quest for a fourth consecutive John Deere Classic title but compatriot Troy Matteson stole the limelight with a blistering 10-under 61 on Thursday in Silvis, Illinois.
Matteson attacked TPC Deer Run with 10 birdies in a flawless opening round, taking a three-shot lead over Ricky Barnes (64) as he looks to add a third PGA title to his resume.
“It was a pretty special day,” Matteson said. “I’ve been playing pretty well, just not making a lot putts.
“I made a couple putts that were really, really difficult, and I had a bunch of other really, really good looks.
“I didn’t think it was going to be 10-under, but definitely thought it was going to be good.”
Stricker, who is looking to become just the fifth men’s player to win the same tournament in four consecutive years, joined six others in a tie for third after a back nine blitz helped him to a six-under 65.
After an even par front nine with one birdie and one bogey leaving him well off the pace, Stricker powered home with four birdies and an 80-yard hole out for eagle.
“It was a slow start, really a little bit out of sorts to start with,” Stricker said.
“I hit some shots that I haven’t been hitting. Just a little unsettled I guess you would say. Then I just had a really good back side.”
Young Tom Morris, Walter Hagan, Gene Sarazen and Tiger Woods sit in the exclusive club of men to win a tournament in four consecutive years and Stricker said the chance to join them was on his mind.
“I’m looking at it as an opportunity. It’s fun, but there is pressure involved,” said Stricker.
“You’re trying to do it and there’s a lot of expectations not only from me, but from a lot of other people to do it too.
“I try to tell myself, I’ve won it three times. But I’m trying to downplay it to myself.
“It seems to be working the way I’ve been thinking about it, so I’ll just go out and try to do the same thing tomorrow.”