By Ron Patey
Danny Lee of New Zealand played it much straighter than David Hearn of Canada on the second playoff hole to secure his first PGA Tour victory at the Greenbrier Classic. Both men tugged their drives left off the tee on the 616-yard, par-5 17th hole. Lee had an opening, while Hearn was faced with slinging a low hook shot around a formidable tree trunk and under thick branches.
Lee’s second landed in the short stuff. Hearn’s bounded through a bunker and left him to chop his ball back out to the fairway. Hearn nearly jarred his fourth, but it hit a hard section on the green and slid into a collection area. The New Zealander, meanwhile, planted his third-shot approach to within stress-free range and two-putted to cement the victory. Americans Kevin Kisner, who has come up light in three playoffs this season, and Robert Streb were in the playoff with Lee and Hearn. They exited after the first extra hole when their tee-shots made in the rough behind the green on the par-3 18th.
Lee and Hearn earned places in next week’s Open Championship on the Old Course at St. Andrews. James Hahn and Greg Owen will fill the other two invitation slots for players who finish the Greenbrier in the top 12 but hadn’t previously qualified for the third major of 2015.
Next On The Tee: John Deere Classic
Jordan Spieth comes back to the Quad Cities region of Illinois, where he won his first PGA title as a teenager in 2013 and finished T7 in 2014, on cruise control. The Texan is the sixth player ever to win The Masters and U.S. Open back to back. His game couldn’t be in a better state, as he looks to track down a second John Deere Classic championship en route to the Open Championship.
Defending champion Brian Harman put together a stellar four rounds a week ago at the Travelers Championship to finish solo third behind eventual winner Bubba Watson. The University of Georgia alum shook off a late charge by Zach Johnson last year to win by a stroke. The shorter-hitting Harman’s discipline and commitment to playing his own game makes him a good bet to be a factor in Illinois.
There was no way Steve Stricker was going to miss taking a crack at completing a career grand slam of John Deere Classic victories, even with a shortened schedule after rehabbing several injuries. While the Wisconsin native’s play has been spotty thus far, he has shot a 60 on D.A. Weibring’s layout and held the winner’s trophy three straight times from 2009-2011 on the 18th green at TPC Deere Run.
The player closing in the highest position of the top five at the John Deere Classic, and who has not already made it in, will punch his ticket into the Open Championship as the last U.S. qualifier.
TPC Deere Run plays 7,258 yards long and is a par 71.
Favorites: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Brian Harman, Ryo Ishikawa, Tony Finau
Players To Watch: Ryan Moore, Steve Stricker, Kevin Kisner, Danny Lee, Harris English
Ron Patey covered the golf industry for 21 years as a special sections editor with Sun Media. During the past five years, Patey has been a golf writer for Examiner.com.