Jonathan Byrd Jonathan Byrd rallies to win PGA Tour's John Deere Classic at TPC at Deere Run

Jonathan Byrd birdied three of his final five holes Sunday to rally for a final-round score of 5-under-par 66 to win the John Deere Classic by one stroke over Tim Clark.

More importantly, Byrd earned a spot in this week's British Open - even though he obviously didn't think much of his chances of making it to Carnoustie Golf Club. In fact, the 29-year-old was so down on his game after missing four consecutive cuts that he didn't even bother bringing his passport to the tournament in Silvis, Ill.

But after being one of six players in the field to post four rounds in the 60s at TPC at Deere Run to finish the tournament at 18 under 266, Byrd had to make plans to swing by his home in Georgia before making the surprise trip to Scotland.

"I've got to get home to St. Simons Island, Ga., somehow tonight and kind of get regrouped and pack," Byrd said in his post-round press conference. "Hopefully Polo sent me the fall line of clothes already because I know they probably didn't think I was going to be in the British, so I need some warmer clothes.

"Maybe I'll get a videotape of (the last) British Open at Carnoustie and maybe start watching some stuff on the plane ride over and maybe get a feel for the course that way."

Clearly, Byrd wasn't even thinking about playing in his first British Open.

Byrd and his caddy, Mike Hicks, had decided that the seventh-year PGA Tour pro might best be served by focusing on building some momentum for the FedExCup playoffs.

"I pretty much threw the British out of my mind," Byrd said. "I went in and I really worked hard this week. I was out on the range at 7 a.m. on Monday morning, which is -- I'm never out there on a Monday morning that early.
"I was hitting wedges and working on my swing. I had a good practice Monday and felt pretty good all week."

Sunday's victory marked Byrd's third PGA Tour win -- the most by any American-born player under the age of 30 on Tour. He previously won the 2002 Buick Challenge and the 2004 B.C. Open.

In addition to his first Open appearance, Byrd will receive an invitational to play in the 2008 Masters. He also picked up the first-place check of $738,000 and 4,500 FedExCup points, climbing to 23rd in the season standings.

"Those are just by-products of winning a golf tournament," Byrd said. "You don't think about those things right off, but man, I haven't played in the British yet and every time I watch it on TV, I just can't wait to get over there. I just love the thought of playing that type of golf."

Clark, who surrendered the lead with a bogey on No. 17, could've forced a playoff with a birdie on the final hole. However, his approach shot on the par-4 18th left him with a 70-foot birdie putt, which he failed to convert, missing out on his last opportunity to qualify for the British Open and ending his personal streak of playing in 15 straight majors.

"I think the biggest disappointment is not being able to play next week," Clark told reporters following his best PGA Tour finish since ending second at the 2006 Masters. "I was 13th at Augusta and 17th at the U.S. Open and I don't get to go to the British Open, which kind of blows my mind a little bit."

Third-round leader Nathan Green and Troy Matteson tied for third at 15 under 269. Carl Pettersson was fifth at 14 under 270.

July 16, 2007

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