Golf

Stricker 3 back of Matteson at Deere

Three-time defending champ Steve Stricker is in second after shooting a 66.
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SILVIS, Ill. (AP)

Troy Matteson enjoys having the lead going into the final round of a golf tournament.

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Steve Stricker doesn't mind having to come from behind.

Each has their chance in Sunday's final round of the John Deere Classic. Matteson has a three-stroke lead over Stricker going into the last 18 holes at TPC Deere Run.

Both Matteson, a two-time PGA Tour winner, and Stricker, chasing his fourth straight title at the Deere, shot 5-under par 66 on Saturday.

Matteson had a total of 18-under par 195, with Stricker alone in second at 198.

''I've been in the position Troy's in, and it's a difficult position because you have the expectation that you should go out and win,'' Stricker said. ''It's still very hard, because guys behind you are going for broke. They can be a little bit more aggressive and take a shot at pins, where the guy with the lead may steer away from pins and play more cautiously.

''The bigger lead you have, the more you expect and everyone else expects you to win.''

Matteson doesn't mind being on top of the leaderboard.

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''You always want to be ahead rather than behind,'' Matteson said. ''Every stroke you can gain is good. I think you still need to be aggressive. It's anybody's tournament.

''I mean, a guy at 12 under could shoot 60. You have to come up with a lot of under-par shots. I'm going to do the same thing I've done every day. I know those guys are going to, too. They're just going to be trying to shoot as low as they can.''

Stricker is attempting to join Tom Morris Jr., Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and Tiger Woods as a winner four straight times in the same tournament. Woods has accomplished the feat twice.

''Nobody's paying attention to what I do,'' Matteson said. ''It's great for me if I win. If Stricker wins, it's a really big story.''

Stricker, seeking his second victory of the year and 13th of his career, was five strokes behind Matteson at one point during the back nine, then surged.

His 76-yard wedge shot to the par-4 14th green landed 2 feet from the hole to set up the first of four straight birdies. He sank a 5-footer at the 15th, a 6-footer at the 16th, and an 11-footer at the par-5 17th after missing the fairway with his tee shot and sending his approach into a greenside bunker.

''Those were four nice birdies in a row, which I really needed,'' Stricker said.

The final one made up for the bogey on the last hole, set up by shoving his tee shot into a grove of trees to the right of the fairway.

Nonetheless, he posted his 37th under-par round at Deere Run in 39 attempts, and is 109-under par at the course since the tournament moved here in 2000.

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They'll be in the final twosome, but others may have a say in the outcome, including Brian Harman and former Masters champion Zach Johnson, who are 14-under 199.

Johnson, whose gallery in the third round rivaled Stricker's, is from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and is a member of the tournament's board of directors. While chasing his first win at Deere Run, he understands how Stricker would make history by triumphing.

''If I can't win it, I wouldn't mind seeing him win it,'' Johnson said. ''It's not hard to be a fan of his. But anything can happen. There are guys behind making birdies.''

In contrast to Stricker and Johnson, Matteson played in relative seclusion, even though he was in the final pairing with Harman. There was little applause when his approach shot landed on the 18th green.

''I'm in a different position in life (than Stricker and Johnson),'' Matteson said. ''These guys are Ryder Cuppers, winning major championships. People buy tickets to see them.''

Tagged: Zach Johnson, Troy Matteson, Steve Stricker

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