SILVIS, Ill. (AP) — Brian Harman admitted he felt the pressure.
The 27-year-old, in his third full season on the PGA Tour, hadn't been in the final twosome in the final round until Sunday. He held the lead entering the final round of the John Deere Classic, and looked at the scoreboard after hitting a poor shot into the eighth green.
"I saw the guys were playing well, so that's when I felt it, but I was able to hit three really good shots on No. 9 to birdie, and that kind of got me going," Harman said.
He kept going all the way to his first victory on the Tour, using three straight birdies down the stretch to hold off Zach Johnson by one stroke.
Harman had a 5-under 66 in the final round for a 22-under-262 total to earn $846,000 and the last exemption for next week's British Open. Johnson had the best round of the day at 7-under 64.
"It was very hard, probably one of the hardest things I've ever tried to do in my life," Harman said. "Just trying not to let your mind run wild is the hardest part out there."
Two years ago, Harman played with Johnson in a late pairing of the Deere that Johnson won, and learned a great deal about how to handle the heat.
"I talked to Zach about it, and he felt I was trying to get out of his way a little too much and that I needed to stake my ground a little bit," Harman said.
He did so Sunday beginning on the par-5 second hole, sinking a 4-foot putt after a 223-yard approach. That jumped him to 19 under and set the tone. His bogey on No. 5 became only a momentary speed bump once he birdied No. 9. He led Johnson and Scott Brown by a stroke at the turn and was ahead by as many as three strokes after his final birdie, a 6-footer on No. 16.
Jhonattan Vegas had a 65 to finished tied for third with Jerry Kelly (66) at 265. Scott Brown (68) and Tim Clark (67) tied for fifth another shot back.
Three-time winner Steve Stricker fell off the pace set by Harman on the front nine, then fell off the leader board with a double-bogey on the par-3 12th. His approach ended up in high brush behind and below the green.
"It was hard to play after that," Stricker said. "I was just trying to get it in without getting in Brian's way."