Harman wins first PGA title to reach British Open

SILVIS, United States - Unheralded American Brian Harman won his first PGA title on Sunday, capturing the John Deere Classic to claim a spot in next week's British Open.

Harman became the 20th player to win his first US tour crown at the US$4.7 million (S$5.83 million) event, firing a final-round 66, five-under par, to finish 72 holes on 22-under 262 for a one-stroke triumph.

Harman, who matched his best prior US PGA finish with a third-place effort at Riviera in February, had missed the cut the past two weeks but took home the top prize of US$846,000 at Deere Run.

"This win gave me a lot of confidence," Harman said.

The victory qualified Harman for the British Open at Royal Liverpool, which starts Thursday in Hoylake, England. A special charter flight will take those qualified from the central US event to Europe.

"I brought my passport and a couple of jackets," Harman said. "I can't wait to get on that plane." Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion and a home-area hero who won the event in 2012, fired a bogey-free 64 but settled for his third runnerup showing in the event on 263.

"I'm very pleased with the effort," Johnson said. "I don't want to say it was perfect but it was close. I had a great day even though it comes up short." Harman eagled the par-5 second after putting his approach four feet from the cup, took a bogey at the fifth but responded with a 30-foot birdie putt at the ninth and added a 16-foot birdie putt at the par-5 10th.

Johnson kept the pressure on Harman with birdies at 13, 14 and 17 to stay on the leader's heels.

But Harman answered the challenge with three birdies in a row starting with an eight-foot birdie putt at the 14th followed by a 15-foot birdie putt at 15 and a six-footer at the par-3 16th.

That allowed Harman to par the 17th and bogey 18 for the victory.

Venezuela's Jhonattan Vegas and American Jerry Kelly shared third on 265, leaving the South American who is playing on a medical exemption about $9,000 shy of earning enough to retain his playing rights with two events remaining to complete the task.

South Africa's Tim Clark and American Scott Brown shared fifth on 266, two strokes in front of Americans Bo Van Pelt, Jordan Spieth, Ryan Moore and Johnson Wagner.

Australian Steven Bowditch and three-time John Deere Classic champion Steve Stricker shared 11th on 269.