Planet Golf — 01 July 2022 by GW staff and news services
Poston wire to wire? Wins by three

SILVIS, Ill. — J.T. Poston plays golf the way Phil Ivey plays poker.

If there is a pulse behind the smooth and easy stroke Poston enlists to roll putts into the center of the cup with a reliably languid pace, you wouldn’t know it.

Poston’s swing is equally smooth and easy, and he moves across a golf course in measured fashion, too, rarely changing stride, each step seemingly matching the last.

As the 29-year-old from Hickory, North Carolina, pushed all-in during Sunday’s final round of the John Deere Classic, coolly and steadily securing his second PGA TOUR career victory, you wouldn’t have known the stakes.

They were considerable. The $1.278 million winner’s check, for starters. 500 points and a move from No. 66 to No. 22 in the FedExCup standings, for another. And a TOUR exemption through 2024. There also was an exemption to tee it up in The Open Championship in two weeks, and at fabled St. Andrews, no less. A ticket to next year’s THE PLAYERS Championship, the Masters and the PGA Championship was on the line.

J.T. Poston raked that whole pot.

That’s not to mention the coveted validation that comes with adding a second career TOUR win to his maiden victory at the 2019 Wyndham Championship in his native North Carolina.

None of those things seemed to raise Poston’s heart rate as he went about his work at TPC Deere Run. Not after opening with a round of 62 on Thursday. Not while holding the lead after Friday and Saturday. Not as he opened his Sunday round with three straight birdies to extend the three-shot lead he took to the first tee. And not after bogeying the fifth and sixth holes to seemingly put his winning hand in peril

“Honestly, it’s just who I am,” Poston said afterward of the steady veneer and outward calm he displayed the whole week long while chasing the first wire-to-wire win in 30 years at the John Deere Classic. “I know how I feel and I guess I do a good job of not showing it, but there is definitely some nerves. I’ve always been pretty level, even keel. I think that’s a strength, not getting too excited, especially today after a great start.

“I feel like it could have been easy to get real excited and start thinking about the finish line. I tried to stay one shot at a time and focused on what I had in front of me. But it’s just kind of just how I’ve always been.”

Maybe not always.

In the aftermath of a 2-under round of 69 that secured the three-shot victory, Poston conceded his bogey-free victory at the Wyndham did create a bar he spent a few years trying to match.

“I think I put a little more pressure on myself kind of the last couple years, trying to get that second win and trying to be perfect again,” Poston said. “I think it took a little while for me to realize or accept that it’s OK to make a mistake as long as you limit them, and that was something that I would say I finally realized this year and tried not to be perfect, but just tried to be real solid.”

The result has been a stretch of golf that, while far from perfect, saw him building toward this week.

A tie for third at the RBC Heritage was followed by three successive missed cuts, and then a T9 back home in Carolina at the Wells Fargo Championship. At last week’s Travelers Championship, opening and closing rounds of 62 and a tie for second foreshadowed his TPC Deere Run form.

“There was a while where he hadn’t played like J.T.,” noted Patton Kizzire, one of six close friends and competitors with whom Poston shared a house/game room this past weekend. “The last few months, he’s really started to come into form, and you saw that last week with a 62 to lead off the Travelers. Boom, another 62 to lead off here. He’s been cool, calm and collected all the way through.”

Well, perhaps not all the way. Over post-round games of cards the previous few evenings, it seems Poston’s poker face was less than Ivey-esque.

“You gin on him early and he’ll get a little fired up,” said Brendon Todd, a three-time winner and another of this week’s housemates, “But (his heart rate) goes back down quickly.

Kelly Cox, who will become Mrs. J.T. Poston in December, said Poston’s unflappable calm was a cause for attraction after Todd introduced them three years ago.

“I don’t know how he does it, honestly,” Cox said. “It’s one of his best characteristics. When we met, that was one of the first things I noticed.”

A three-time TOUR winner himself, Todd said Poston’s poker-faced approach just might be a template to playing winning golf.

“I think he’s one of those guys who’s just about as relaxed as they come,” Todd said. “Not too high. Not too low. He’s a lot of fun to be around. He’s got a great sense of humor. This week he was calm, having fun, seemed relaxed. Wire-to-wire winner?  It was really impressive to see, and I think we can all learn a little from that.”

It may not work for everyone, of course. There’s that one guy who raised fist-pumping to new heights while winning everything worth winning. Certainly, Poston’s steady game, steely nerves and not inconsiderable talent works for him.

How far can it take him from here?

“He can be as good as he wants to be,” said Kizzire. “He’s got a great swing, great rhythm, great touch around the green and that putter, he’s very impressive on the greens. He’s one of the best putters on TOUR. When he’s on, he’s the best. Sky is the limit for him, but he’s a guy that’s not going to look at all that. He’s going to look at what’s right in front of him and keep doing it.”

Yes and no. With the validation a second TOUR victory brings in the bank, Poston is willing to dream.

“Big,” he conceded. “I have some career goals of playing on Presidents Cup and Ryder Cups and stuff like that, winning majors. I haven’t done anything like that yet. I haven’t really played that great in a major yet, so I’ll probably take a step back and reevaluate some of the goals.

“But right now, a good start would be playing well in the majors, getting in the mix in the majors and playing well in some big events. Yeah, I would love to be on one of those U.S. teams. I know I have a lot of work to do to be relevant there, but it’s a goal of mine and something that I’m definitely going to try and accomplish.”

THIRD ROUND

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.

“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.”

Stallings 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.

SECOND ROUND

SILVIS, Ill. — J.T. Poston took a four-stroke lead into the weekend in the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic, following an opening 9-under 62 with a 65 on Friday at TPC Deere Run.

Coming off a second-place tie last week in Connecticut after also opening with a 62, Poston got to 15 under with a birdie on the par-4 13th and parred the final six holes in the afternoon round.

“I feel great,” Poston said. “My last few rounds out here have been great going back into last week, so just going to try and keep riding that momentum and doing what I’m doing. Don’t change anything and just kind of take the good looks when they come. And when I don’t have a good number or don’t feel good over it, just be smart about it.”

Poston was a stroke off the tournament 36-hole record set by Steve Stricker in his 2010 victory.

Denny McCarthy was second at 11 under after a 65, also playing in the afternoon after rain delayed play in the morning.

Christopher Gotterup, the former Rutgers player in the field on a sponsor exemption, had a 67 to match Matthias Schwab (65), Emiliano Grillo (64) and Chris Naegel (66) at 10 under.

“It was an interesting day,” Gotterup said. “Definitely a bit of an up-and-down day compared to yesterday, where I was kind of more on cruise control.”

Poston won the 2019 Wyndham Championship for his lone PGA Tour title. Last week in the Travelers Championship, he followed the opening 62 with rounds of 70, 67 and 64 to finish two stroke behind Xander Schauffele.

“Last week, the one thing I think I learned after playing well Thursday was to try and keep the pedal down,” Poston said. “I think this golf course may yield a few more birdies than last week, but at the same time, you got to go out there and hit some golf shots to stay aggressive. I was able to do that, which is nice.”

Iowa native Zach Johnson, the 2012 winner, was 4 under after opening 69-69 in his 20th consecutive start in the event.

“Today was much more manageable and gettable,” Johnson said. “Yesterday, I putted better probably as a whole.”

Defending champion Lucas Glover missed the cut by a stroke, shooting 74-66.

FIRST ROUND

SILVIS, Ill. — J.T. Poston shot a 9-under 62 on Thursday to take a two-stroke lead in the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic.

Coming off a second-place tie last week in Connecticut after also opening with a 62, Poston eagled the par-5 second and had seven birdies in a bogey-free round at TPC Deere Run.

“It’s, obviously, why you practice and why you work as hard as you do on your game,” Poston said. “Any time you can have those rounds where you really get it going low and mistake-free, bogey-free is a bonus. It’s why you work at it and why you practice the way we do.”

Canadian Michael Gligic was second at 64, playing bogey-free in the final group of the day off the first tee.

“It was nice,” Gligic said. “Just kind of hit ball where I was looking. Gave myself lots of looks. I think I only missed one green and was able to make a few putts.”

Vaughn Taylor and Christopher Gotterup followed at 65. Ricky Barnes, Denny McCarthy, Chris Naegel and Dylan Frittelli shot 66.

“Been struggling a little bit physically and haven’t been putting very well,” Taylor said. “But coming into here I told myself, `You know, I know this course, how to play it. Just go do it.′ That’s kind of how I did today. Just tried not to think about too much and just play golf.”

Poston won the 2019 Wyndham Championship for his lone PGA Tour title.

“I would say for the last few months it’s been in a good spot,” Poston said. “Just hadn’t quite seen the results. Then, Hilton Head I had a good week. Wells Fargo, good week. Last week, playing well. So I think it’s starting to kind of come together and see the results and see the shots and kind of building that confidence back into my ball- striking.

Iowa native Zach Johnson, the 2012 winner, opened with a 69 in afternoon wind in his 20th consecutive start in the event.

“That’s as hard as I’ve seen this golf course play in a long time,” Johnson said. “Granted, you got some roll, so if you land it in the fairway it was going to bounce, which is fun. But it was hard.”

Defending champion Lucas Glover shot 74.

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