Saturday's golf: Poston eagles 17th, takes 3-shot lead in John Deere Classic

Associated Press

Silvis, Ill. — J.T. Poston made up for two back-nine bogeys with an eagle on the par-5 17th, shooting a 4-under 67 on Saturday to take a three-stroke lead into the final round of the John Deere Classic.

Trying to complete a wire-to-wire victory after tying for second last week in the Travelers Championship in Connecticut, Poston made a 13 1/2-foot eagle putt on 17.

J.T. Poston putts on the ninth green during the third round of the John Deere Classic.

“That was huge kind of going into tomorrow,” Poston said about the eagle. “I wasn’t quite as sharp today off the tee and had to play a little defensive into some of the greens. Nice to put two good swings on there and make that putt to kind of capitalize and get some ground back that I had lost.”

He had a 19-under 194 total at TPC Deere Run.

Playing partner Denny McCarthy birdied the final two holes for a 66 to join Scott Stallings (64) and Emiliano Grillo (65) at 16 under.

“Was nice to finish that way,” McCarthy said. “Nice to make a putt on 18. Nice to see something go in going into tomorrow. It’s a good feeling to kind of feel like I got something out of round, birdieing the last two.”

Poston opened with rounds of 62 and 65 to take a four-stroke lead, then played the front nine in 3 under Saturday with birdies on Nos. 2, 5 and 8. He dropped a stroke on the par-3 12th, birdied the par-4 14th and bogeyed the par-4 15th before making the big putt on 17.

From Hickory, North Carolina, the 29-year-old Poston won the 2019 Wyndham Championship for his lone PGA Tour title.

“Just trying to stay patient and composed,” Poston said. “I’m not trying to get too ahead of myself. Just trying to take it one hole at a time. Being in this position, I’m trying to focus especially on the shot in front of me and do the best I can and go from there.”

Stalling birdied Nos. 15-17.

“Look forward to the opportunity.” Stallings said. “Today was a big step in the right direction to tomorrow.”

Grillo birdied four of the last five.

“Everybody is in the same situation,” Grillo said. “Everybody wants to win. Everybody wants to make the most out of it. Definitely going to be a tough battle tomorrow.”

Iowa native Zach Johnson, the 2012 winner, was 8 under after a 67 in his 20th consecutive start in the event. He also eagled 17.

World Tour

Adrian Meronk will take a narrow lead into the final round of the Irish Open at Thomastown as he bids to become the first Polish winner in the history of the European tour.

Meronk, who has three top-three finishes this season, carded a third round of 4-under 68 at Mount Juliet to edge in front on a crowded leaderboard on Saturday. The top 14 players are separated by four shots.

At 14 under par, Meronk is one shot ahead of England’s Jack Senior, Spain’s Jorge Campillo and Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti. Another stroke back are 2020 winner John Catlin and Espen Kofstad following matching rounds of 65.

Meronk’s round included three bogeys and seven birdies, including three straight from the 15th.

Defending champion Lucas Herbert was three shots off the lead on 11 under.

Scotland’s David Law and the English quartet of Aaron Rai, Matthew Southgate, Dale Whitnell and James Morrison were at 10 under.

Former champion Shane Lowry, who birdied the final four holes on Friday to make the cut with a shot to spare, carded a third round of 68 to reach 7 under.

LIV Tour

NORTH PLAINS, Ore. – Branden Grace won LIV Golf’s first stop on American soil, an event that drew critics and protestors alike because of the upstart series’ funding by Saudi Arabia.

Grace closed with a 7-under 65 on Saturday to finish at 13 under in the 54-hole tournament at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club. The 34-year-old South African won $4 million.

The fledgling LIV series, fronted by CEO Greg Norman and funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, aims to challenge the PGA Tour. It has lured some players, including Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson, with the promise of big signing bonuses, hefty prize purses and fewer events.

Grace beat Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz by two strokes.

“Played flawless golf, played really, really well when I needed to do something special and came up and managed to pull it out,” Grace said. “But just what a great day, it was amazing to come here, this new format, this new everything is amazing and everybody here is having a blast.”

Ortiz, ranked No. 119 in the world, shot a 69. Johnson (71) finished four back with Patrick Reed (67).

The 48-man field in Oregon competed for a $20 million purse, with an additional $5 million prize fund for a team competition. There was no cut and even the last-place finisher earned a payday of $120,000. Charl Schwartzel won the tour’s inaugural event outside of London (and the team portion) and pocketed $4.75 million.

The Four Aces team, led by Johnson, won the team competition at Pumpkin Ridge.

LIV Golf also announced Saturday that English player Pat Casey has joined the series. Casey, 44, has won three times on the PGA Tour and 15 times on the European Tour, and is ranked No. 26 in the world. He has not played a tournament round since March because of injuries.

The PGA Tour has responded to the upstart tour by suspending every active member who competed in the first LIV event. Those who played in Oregon were also suspended unless they resign their tour memberships.

LIV Golf has been dogged by criticism since its inception, well before it came to tiny North Plains, about 20 miles west of downtown Portland.

The city’s mayor and 10 fellow mayors from nearby communities wrote the course’s Texas-based owner weeks ago, objecting that the event did not align with community values because of Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

A group of families whose loved ones were killed by the terrorist attack on Sept. 11 came to North Plains on the tournament’s opening day to protest the event. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on that day in 2001 were Saudi citizens. The group plans a more sizeable demonstration for the next stop at Bedminster in New Jersey.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon called out the tour for “sportswashing” to detract from Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. Wyden pointed to the 2016 hit-and-run death of 15-year-old Fallon Smart in Portland. A Saudi national was accused in the case but vanished before trial, and U.S. officials believe he was spirited out of the country with the help of the Saudi government. A protestor at the entrance on Friday held a sign that read “Fallon Smart, 2000-2016.”

The players faced tough questions before the tournament about their involvement, with most reciting pat answers and maintaining that golf can be a “force for good.” Others complained about the structure and grind of the PGA Tour.

LIV Golf touts that it’s “golf, but louder.” In addition to the simultaneous team competition, the tournaments feature shotgun starts, interactive fan activities and hip-hop blaring on the driving range.

Crowds on Saturday were better than Thursday and Friday. LIV Golf said it was a sellout, but would not reveal the number of tickets sold.

The tour’s next event is set for July 29-31 at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster. Casey is expected to join at that time.