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J.T. Poston earns wire-to-wire victory at John Deere Classic

J.T. Poston poses with the John Deere Classic trophy after closing with a 2-under-par 69 for a three-stroke margin over Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Emiliano Grillo.Stacy Revere/Getty

J.T. Poston completed a wire-to-wire victory Sunday in the John Deere Classic for his second PGA Tour title and a spot in the British Open.

Three strokes ahead entering the day at TPC Deere Run, Poston closed with a 2-under-par 69 for a three-stroke margin over fellow British Open qualifiers Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Emiliano Grillo.

“It is hard,” Poston said. “Wire-to-wire, having the lead for so long that it’s just hard not to think about that fine line all week. I tried to stick to the game plan.”

Poston finished at 21-under 263. He opened with rounds of 62, 65, and 67.

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Bezuidenhout shot a 66, and Grillo had a 69.

“I just knew I needed a solid week,” Grillo said. “I just needed to play well and go up the rankings and have a job for next year. That was more important for me than going to the Open. Now I get both, so that’s pretty special.”

Christopher Gotterup, the former Rutgers player in the field on a sponsor exemption, had a 66 to tie for fourth at 17 under with Scott Stallings (70).

“Just more validation that I do belong out here,” Gotterup said. “And honestly, I didn’t have my greatest stuff this week. Hit it amazing, but just putted pretty poorly until coming down the stretch.”

Poston birdied the first three holes, bogeyed Nos. 5 and 6, and parred the next 10. He made a 4-footer for birdie on the par-5 17th and parred the 18th.

“I was just trying to breathe,” Poston said. “I was really. I think there were a lot of nerves, a lot more than the first few days. I was just battling through them. I think after today, after this week, I feel like knowing I can play with those nerves and I can still win, still shoot a solid score considering the pressure and trying to win out here.”

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The 29-year-old player from Hickory, N.C., won a week after tying for second in Connecticut in the Travelers Championship. He also won the 2019 Wyndham Championship.

The British Open is July 14-17 at the Old Course at St. Andrews.

“I can’t wait,” Poston said. “I’ve always wanted to play in one of those at any venue, but first one to be in St. Andrews and the 150th, I can’t wait to get there and see what it’s like.”

European — Adrian Meronk became Poland’s first winner on the European tour with a superb closing stretch at Mount Juliet in Thomastown, Ireland, for a 6-under 66 and a three-shot victory in the Irish Open.

Meronk was one shot behind Ryan Fox of New Zealand with four holes remaining when he went birdie-birdie-eagle to give himself room for error on the tough closing hole. He made par and walked off the 18th green soaked in a champagne celebration.

“It’s such a relief,” Meronk said. “After coming quite close a couple of times, to finally open the door it’s just a dream come true.”

Fox closed with a 64, and he feared a bogey on the final hole might cost him in the end. Meronk played so well over the closing stretch that it didn’t matter.

Meronk, who finished at 20-under 268, Fox and Thriston Lawrence (67) already were exempt for the British Open. The three spots available from the Irish Open went to American John Catlin, David Law of Scotland and Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay. They all finished on 273.

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Meronk, who played college golf at East Tennessee State, will be the first Polish player in the British Open at St. Andrews in two weeks. That’s a label he knows well. He already was the first Pole in the US Open last year at Torrey Pines, and the first to even earn a European tour card.

And now he’s the first winner, the best title of all. He had finished two shots behind in Qatar and Catalunya this year, and a month ago missed the Dutch Open playoff by one shot.

Meronk made sure there was no tight finish in Ireland. His big run started with a 25-foot birdie putt that broke sharply to the left on the 15th hole to tie Fox for the lead. From the left rough on the 16th, he hit gap wedge to 18 feet for birdie to take the lead.

The clincher came at the par-5 17th when his second shot was just short of the green, leaving an uphill putt from 25 feet that made for eagle and a three-shot advantage.

He finished strong with a 7-iron to the middle of the green and two putts for par. He was sprayed with a bottle of champagne and then took a drink before raising it to the gallery.

“When I hit the green on 18 is the moment I realized, ‘That’s it.’ I’m just super happy,” he said.

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