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Lead shrinks but Stricker hangs on

SILVIS, Ill. — Even with a big lead, Steve Stricker knew he could be in for a rough final round at the John Deere Classic.

And that's exactly what he got.

Stricker led by seven strokes with 17 holes to play. With five holes to go, the lead was down to two. But he maintained that margin the rest of the way Sunday and won the tournament for the second straight year, closing with 1-under par 70 that was 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."

Stricker had a six-shot lead in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera in February and had to scramble to win by two. Sunday, he found himself doing the same thing.

He played it safe, and his putting wasn't sharp. The shot-making 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 258 — 26 under and a record for the tournament.

"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 shot 59 in the opening round, shot a solid 66 but fell short of dethroning Stricker, who won for the ninth time in his career.

Goydos, who had been trying for his first win since 2007, qualified for this week's British Open with his second-place finish.

Jeff Maggert shot 70 to finish six strokes back.

Stricker started with a six-shot lead and quickly bumped it to seven with a 7-foot birdie on the first hole. But he had to battle the rest of the round before essentially sealing his victory at 17.

European: Edoardo Molinari claimed his first tour victory, shooting 3-over 74 to beat Darren Clarke by three shots at the Scottish Open. Scoring was high after a long spell of rain at Loch Lomond in Luss, where Molinari finished 12-under 272. Clarke had begun the day a shot behind Molinari but had 76. Raphael Jacquelin closed with 68 to place third at 8 under. Molinari's younger brother Francesco Molinari (72), Stephen Gallacher (68) and Peter Hedblom (72) trailed Jacquelin by a stroke. John Daly had 77 and finished 14 shots off the pace.

FAST FACTS

British Open

When/where: Thursday-Sunday; Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland

Defending champion: Stewart Cink

Purse: $7 million

TV: Thursday 4 a.m.-3 p.m.; Friday 4 a.m.-3 p.m.; Saturday 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Sunday 6 a.m.-1:30 p.m. All on ESPN

Lead shrinks but Stricker hangs on 07/11/10 [Last modified: Sunday, July 11, 2010 10:14pm]
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