Munoz back on top at John Deere Classic

  • Sebastian Munoz hits off the 17th tee during the third round of the John Deere Classic on Saturday at TPC Deere Run in Silvis.

    Sebastian Munoz hits off the 17th tee during the third round of the John Deere Classic on Saturday at TPC Deere Run in Silvis. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 7/10/2021 7:10 PM

The John Deere Classic, which concludes its 50th anniversary celebration on Sunday, is known for its long history of first-time winners on the PGA Tour. The tourney has had 23 of them in its first 49 years and is on a streak of three straight champions who cracked the win list for the first time here.

That streak could reach four on Sunday, but the odds are against it. Only three players in the top 11 after 54 holes are without a PGA Tour win -- Brandon Hagy, Maverick McNealy and Luke List.

 

Sebastian Munoz, who takes a one-stroke lead into the final round, had his only PGA Tour win at the Sanderson Farms Championship in 2020 when he beat Sungjae Im in a playoff. Munoz, who played collegiately at North Texas State, has also tasted victory in his native Colombia three times, once in a Korn Ferry Tour event and twice in domestic competitions.

Munoz shot 63 to take the first-round lead here. List shot 8-under-par 63 in the second round to take the lead away from him, and Scott Brown shot 63 on Saturday to climb to the top of the leaderboard but he couldn't stay there. Munoz, who has been brilliant on the back nine at TPC Deere Run the first three days, rallied for a 67 and stands at 197 for the three rounds.

Round 3 was played in a steady drizzle, and more rain is in the forecast for Sunday. That didn't hamper the usual low scoring -- another JDC tradition.

"It was tough on the front nine, scrambling with the umbrella, the towel and trying to keep the clubface dry," said Munoz. "It was just take your time, do the best you an and hope for the best."

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His best came on the back side, where Munoz is 13-under-par for the tournament as compared to only three-under on the front. He played in the last threesome on Saturday, paired with List and Adam Schenk. List (71) and Schenk (70) had trouble keeping up with the other contenders.

"We could see on the leaderboard that people were going low, so it was really important to birdie 11, 13 and 16 coming in," said Munoz. "It's nice to be in the position I am right now."

Hagy is one stroke back in second place with Brown, Adam Long, Cameron Champ, Kevin Na and Ryan Moore all two back and McNealy, Jhonattan Vegas, Chez Reavie and List three behind.

The 10 players trailing Munoz have won a combined 20 times, so -- for at least this anniversary year -- one of the JDC's most notable traditions may have to be put on hold. Only one of the top 11 on the leaderboard, Moore, has won the JDC. He did it in 2016, the last of his five PGA Tour victories. This year he's without a top-10 finish after piling up 69 of them in his PGA Tour career. Na has also won five times.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Brown had the best round Saturday, and it came on top of a hot Sunday round -- a 66 -- last week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. The strong finish in Detroit, however, only got him a tie for 52nd place. Standing at No. 180, he's far down the FedEx Cup standings and is on the brink of missing the lucrative postseason series.

"Last Sunday I started to see some putts go in, and it carried over to this week," said Brown. "With my FedEx position, I need to win. I have one goal -- to come in here and win."

Hagy, Munoz's closest pursuer, has his eyes on the top prize, too. The winner gets $1.116 million from a $6.2 million purse.

"It's definitely within my grasp," said Hagy. "I can hit all the shots that are necessary to get me to the top, but the key is all these guys can hit those shots."

A couple noteworthy ones had trouble doing that Saturday, however. Three-time champion Steve Stricker, trying -- at 54 -- to become the oldest winner in PGA Tour history, managed a 68 but is tied for 29th. Doug Ghim, the PGA Tour rookie from Arlington Heights who started with two strong rounds, settled for a 70 and dropped 10 spots in the standings to a tie for 22nd.

Canadian David Hearn made a hole-in-one at No. 3. It was the second ace of the tournament. McNealy made one at No. 16 on Friday. Those were the first holes-in-one in the tournament since 2014.

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