Steve Stricker won the John Deere Classic for the second straight year on Sunday, holding on for a two-shot victory after leading by seven strokes.
Stricker couldn't match the shot-making that allowed him to record the lowest 54-hole total in PGA Tour history. But he came through with a critical birdie after driving into the trees on No. 17 -- the second straight day he put his ball there -- and closed with a 1-under-par 70, just enough to beat Paul Goydos.
"It's a position you want to be in, with a big lead, but you know you have everything to lose," Stricker said. "This is the exactly the same way I felt at Northern Trust. It was difficult. It's a hard round to play."
"You don't want to give shots away and then you end up playing a little safer than you normally do and it leads to tougher birdie putts," Stricker said. "Then they creep in closer because they were playing some good golf."
Goydos, who dazzled the golf world with his 59 in the opening round, shot a solid 66 but still fell short of dethroning Stricker, who won for the ninth time in his career.
He played it safe and his putting wasn't sharp. The shotmaking that had allowed him to record the lowest 54-hole total in PGA Tour history wasn't there. But he came through with a critical birdie after driving into the trees on No. 17 and finished with a 258 -- 26 under and a record for the tournament.
Jeff Maggert shot a 70 to finish six strokes back.
Stricker led by six at the start of the day and quickly bumped the lead to seven with a 7-foot birdie putt on the first hole. But he had to battle through the rest of the round before essentially sealing his victory at 17.
After driving into the trees right of the fairway, Stricker punched out to 91 yards, right in front of the green, then knocked his next shot to six feet. Measuring the putt carefully, Stricker tapped the ball and as fans yelled "Get in the hole," it dropped.
"I told myself you can make this and you need to make this," he said. "I look back at some of the big putts that I've made and there's nothing to be scared of and I rolled it in. So that was a big putt. To go into the last hole with two shots instead of one was huge."
Goydos also birdied the hole to stay two behind, but his last hope died when he hit into the water on 18. Stricker bogeyed the hole after laying up and hitting into the left rough, but it didn't matter -- he was a champion again.
"Strick was hard to catch," Goydos said. "I kept pushing, chipping, grinding, but that putt he made on 17 was a world class putt."
Stricker, ranked fourth in the world, doffed his cap and hugged his caddie and Goydos after tapping in his final shot.
Goydos, who had been trying for his first win since 2007, qualified for the British Open with his second-place finish. Deere officials arranged for two charter jets to fly the players directly to Scotland on Sunday night.
The final groups started three hours early because rain was forecast and they played in threesomes instead of pairs. And it was just in time -- it began sprinkling as Stricker, Goydos and Maggert played the 18th.
Maggert drew within four strokes of Stricker on the back nine, but fell back when he bogeyed 13.
After dominating the TPC Deere Run course for three rounds, Stricker had a shot at the PGA Tour scoring record of 254 and the record of 32 birdies for 72 holes. He fell short on both ends, but he got a victory to make that long flight to St. Andrews seem a whole lot shorter.
"This is why we're playing right here," Stricker said, pointing to the trophy on the table in front of him, "to win tournaments. I wouldn't trade anything for this."