Sepp Straka still boasting underdog mindset heading into John Deere

Embracing his role of defending champion is the last thing Austrian Sepp Straka is doing heading into this week’s John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill.

Straka posted a 21-under 263 at last year’s tournament to beat Brendon Todd and Alex Smalley by two strokes. He put together a stunning final round, carding a 9-under 62 that could have been even lower had he not settled for double bogey at No. 18.

It was a somewhat surprising victory for Straka, who had tied for 64th and tied for 38th after being cut in his three of his six previous events leading up to the 2023 John Deere Classic. But this time around, the 31-year-old is the highest-ranked player in the field, sitting at No. 24 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Despite being the man to beat, Straka isn’t putting pressure on himself as he prepares to get going at TPC Deere Run.

“My expectations don’t really change. Pretty much have the same expectations this year as I did last year,” Straka said. “It’s not like there is crazy hype this year either for me, I don’t think. I’m doing all this with having won last year, but I don’t feel like I ever really hype myself up too much.

“Just try to like prepare for the tournament and then try to give it my all when Thursday comes around.”

What has been on Straka’s mind is his position in the FedExCup standings, where he currently sits in 17th. The top 30 golfers will qualify for the Tour Championship, and Straka is eager to be one of them.

“You always want to finish the year in Atlanta. Don’t want to miss out on the last tournament if you give yourself a good chance,” said Straka, who finished tied for 14th at last year’s Tour Championship. “Feel like the last couple 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.

“So really just try and make sure the game is in shape and, yeah, there is a lot of movement this late in the season, and if … you can play it’s really nice to be into Memphis in a good position.”

Although he tied for 23rd and tied for 56th in his past two events, Straka had back-to-back T5 finishes at the Charles Schwab Challenge on May 26 and the Memorial Tournament on June 9. He also tied for eighth at the Wells Fargo Championship on May 12 but has yet to earn a victory on tour this season.

“Been hitting the ball really good and making a few putts,” Straka said of his strong performances over the past two months. “The putter all year has been not as good as I would’ve liked, as good as last year, but I made some pretty good changes and trending with the putter nicely.

“I think that’s kind of helped. Been hitting the ball well, hitting a lot of fairways, and giving myself a lot of opportunities.”

And perhaps there’s no better place for Straka to get back on track than TPC Deere Run.

“It’s just really special because the volunteers are probably second to none here,” Straka said. “The fans are really engaged and love this event, and makes it a lot of fun to come here and compete.”

–Field Level Media