John Deere Classic changed everything for Sepp Straka in 2023, propelled him to Ryder Cup

Sepp Straka fired off a final-round 62 at last year’s John Deere Classic to win his second PGA Tour victory.

A few weeks after his win at TPC Deere Run, he went on to post a runner-up finish at the Open Championship. He then went on to make his Ryder Cup debut later that fall, helping the Europeans trounce the Americans in Italy.

His impressive come-from-behind victory at the John Deere Classic changed everything for the Austrian golfer.

“It was an incredible part of last year,” Straka said on Wednesday.

“I was playing some pretty good golf but wasn’t getting much out of it, and that all flipped here. I went to the Open and had another really great week, my best finish in a major. Ended up making it to Atlanta. Playing on the Ryder Cup was definitely the highlight of the year, but that wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t get hot here at the John Deere.”

Straka has played in 17 events so far this season, recording four top 10s and nine top 25s. He has made 12 of 17 cuts.

The former Georgia Bulldog finished T-5 back-to-back weeks at the Charles Schwab Challenge and The Memorial. A tie for 56th at the U.S. Open was sandwiched between those starts, although Straka made an incredible hole-in-one on Friday at Pinehurst No. 2.

He most recently played at the Travelers Championship, tying for 23rd. Yet, he has not won since triumphing at this event last year.

Straka felt his putter cooperated better a year ago, so perhaps TPC Deere Run will boost his momentum. He is currently 90th in strokes gained putting, 30 spots worse than where he finished last year in this metric.

“I made pretty good changes and am trending with the putter nicely,” he said.

“I think that’s helped. I’ve been hitting the ball well, hitting a lot of fairways, and giving myself a lot of opportunities. It’s been nice to have a lot of good events in the summer months. This is kind of the time you want to be playing well.”

Last year, the Austrian was the last player in the Tour Championship field.

Straka now sits 17th in the FedEx Cup standings this time around and is 24th in the world. The 31-year-old is trying to return to Atlanta and keep his hot streak going.

To get to Atlanta, a player must finish inside the Top 30 of the FedEx Cup standings. Straka is safely in right now, but playing well could help him out even more. The PGA Tour staggers the starting scores in Atlanta. First place starts at 10-under. Second place is at 8-under, third sits at 7-under, fourth is 6-under, and fifth is 5-under.

Players ranked 6-10th will begin the tournament at 4-under. Those ranked 11-15th start a 3-under, a 2-under start goes to the players ranked 16-20th, the 21-25th players are at 1-under, and the final four players start at even par.

If the Tour Championship started next week, Straka would start at 2-under, so if he played well in the next few weeks, he could earn a better starting score.

“You always want to finish the year in Atlanta,” Straka said.

“Don’t want to miss out on the last tournament. I feel like the last couple of months, I’ve given myself a pretty good chance to get there. Few more tournaments left, one major, and then the points ramp up for the playoffs. There is a lot of movement this late in the season, and if you can play, it’s really nice to be in Memphis in a good position.”

Straka will attempt to become the first repeat champion at the John Deere Classic since Steve Stricker won three in a row from 2009 to 2011.

He is paired with 2021 John Deere Classic winner Lucas Glover and 2015 PGA Championship winner Jason Day on Thursday and Friday. They tee off at 1:49 p.m. ET for Round 1 and 8:29 a.m. ET for the second round.

Savannah Leigh Richardson is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. For more golf coverage, follow us @_PlayingThrough on all major social platforms. You can also follow her on Twitter @SportsGirlSL and Instagram @savannah_leigh_sports.

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