SILVIS — Bryson DeChambeau never had the opportunity to meet Payne Stewart.
But after hearing the stories growing up about the three-time major champion who lost his life in a plane crash, DeChambeau has attempted to model himself after Stewart.
Just like Stewart, DeChambeau starred at Southern Methodist University. Just like Stewart, DeChambeau sports the Hogan-style cap.
And 35 years after Stewart, DeChambeau has earned his breakthrough moment in professional golf in the Quad-Cities.
DeChambeau mounted a charge on the back-nine Sunday with six birdies in the final nine holes to chase down Patrick Rodgers and prevail at the 47th John Deere Classic.
“It’s pretty special to have my first win be here,” DeChambeau said.
Two months shy of his 24th birthday and in his 40th start on the PGA Tour, DeChambeau shot a final-round 65 and finished at 18-under par, one clear of Rodgers.
During the trophy presentation when Deere & Co. CEO Sam Allen presented DeChambeau with a check for $1,008,000, he rattled off the comparisons between he and Stewart.
Once Allen stated the Miller High Life Quad-Cities Open was Stewart’s first of 11 PGA Tour victories in 1982, DeChambeau immediately raised his arms, looked toward the sky and was overwhelmed with emotion.
“Didn’t know Payne Stewart’s first win was here, and that broke me,” DeChambeau later said in his press conference. “He’s done some amazing things for the game of golf, and I hope I can do something similar down the road.”
The leaderboard fluctuated throughout the afternoon.
Morgan Hoffmann and former JDC champions Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson and Brian Harman were among those to make early charges. Wesley Bryan and Scott Stallings also were on top at one point in the round.
It was decided ultimately between DeChambeau and Rodgers.
There was a four-shot swing between the two on the short par-4 14th and par-5 17th. DeChambeau made birdie on both holes. Rodgers surrendered a shot on both holes.
“Obviously you look back on the back nine, and making bogeys on 14 and 17, that’s where I lost the golf tournament,” Rodgers said. “It is two pretty simple holes.”
DeChambeau, already with five birdies on the closing nine, walked to the 18th tee trailing by a stroke. After finding the fairway with his drive, he stuck a 7-iron from 194 yards to 14 feet.
“When he gets in that position, that’s when he is the best,” DeChambeau’s caddie, Tim Tucker, said. “There was no back down. You look at that (second) shot at 18, he followed it right to the flag.
“The kid has a bunch of courage in those moments. He wanted to win this golf tournament.”
DeChambeau sank the birdie putt, let out a huge roar and fist pump as he reached 18 under.
“I thought that putt was going to get us into a playoff,” Tucker admitted.
Rodgers, though, had trouble controlling his driver on the inward nine. He drove it left at 14, hit the trees off the tee at 17 and had more than 200 yards in for his third shot.
Rodgers was left with an 8-footer to save par but the putt lipped out.
Needing birdie on the last to force a playoff, Rodgers was wayward off the tee again. He ran his second shot over the green. From approximately 50 feet, his birdie chip ran by the hole to secure DeChambeau’s win.
It was Rodgers’ best finish on the PGA Tour this season.
“I had guys coming at me with some really low rounds,” Rodgers said. “Obviously, Bryson shot a great one today. It’s a great experience for the future, and I look forward to winning very soon.”
Asked what triggered his back-nine comeback, DeChambeau said he “blacked out.”
“I was just hitting great shots,” he said. “I knew it on the front nine. I just had to stick to the process and maybe run a couple putts in. When I made that little 6-footer at 10, it was kind of a little momentum boost.”
DeChambeau has scuffled through most of his first full season on the Tour. He missed eight straight cuts from mid-April through the U.S. Open last month.
"I was going through a process of understanding what is the most efficient way to hit the golf, to putt, for me, based on how I feel and how uncomfortable I am as well," he said.
"I knew I was comfortable hitting every kind of shot out here. It was just a matter of if I could hit it under the pressure. That's all it was."
DeChambeau becomes the 21st golfer to make the JDC his first win on Tour.
It also gave him the last spot into this week’s British Open at Royal Birkdale and moved him up from 114th to 34th in the FedEx Cup standings.
And like Stewart, he hopes a win here can launch his career to bigger things.
"Payne has definitely meant a lot to me in my life," DeChambeau said, "and hopefully I can kind of follow in his footsteps."