Stricker wins at Kapalua

2012-01-10 07:47

Kapalua - American Steve Stricker birdied two of the last three holes to fire a four-under par 69 in Monday's final round and win the $5.6 million PGA Tour's Hyundai Tournament of Champions by three strokes.

Stricker, who turns 45 next month, captured a $1.12 million top prize in the match-up of last year's winners, which was without 2011 major champions Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and South African Charl Schwartzel.

Stricker finished on 23-under par 269 to defeat Scotland's Martin Laird by three strokes, with Americans Jonathan Byrd and Webb Simpson sharing third on 273. South Korean K.J. Choi and American Harrison Frazar shared fifth on 277.

"It was tough," Stricker said. "I never let up but it's always tough trying to win. It's even tougher playing with a lead like I had. In the end I got the ball in the hole."

Stricker, the only player to win multiple titles in each of the past three US PGA seasons, took the 12th title of his career, his first since capturing his third consecutive John Deere Classic crown last July.

The triumph was Stricker's eighth in the past 32 months and moved him up to fifth in the world rankings, the highest spot of any American.

Stricker, who began the day with a five-stroke edge, opened with five pars before his lone bogey at the par-4 sixth, having missed solid birdie chances while rivals closed the gap.

"I felt it kind of slipping away but I was patient, frustrated but patient," Stricker said. "I told myself if I could get a couple back by the turn I would be all right."

Stricker responded with birdies at the par-3 eight, par-5 ninth and par-4 12th to rebuild his confidence.

"That birdie at eight calmed me down quite a bit," he said.

Stricker reached the tee at the par-4 16th with a two-stroke lead over defending champion Byrd, Laird and Simpson.

Byrd smacked a 3-wood shot 92 yards to four feet on his approach, but Stricker followed by dropping his approach three feet from the cup.

Byrd sank his birdie putt only to have Stricker sink his birdie putt moments later to restore his two-stroke edge.

At 17, Stricker came up short on his approach and blasted a 71-foot putt four yards beyond the hole. Stricker left his putt on the lip of the cup and tapped in for par, then watched Byrd miss his putt to three adrift.

Byrd took another bogey at 18 and Stricker finished with an eight-foot birdie to stretch his final victory margin.

Laird birdied five of the last seven holes but his charge was too little and too late, undone by bogeys at the eighth and 10th after having run off three birdies in a row starting at the third hole.

Simpson birdied 15 and 16 but could not close on Stricker, finishing with back-to-back pars.

Stricker said he has fully recovered from a neck injury that nagged him late last season and his game is ahead of where it would normally be so early in a season.

"I feel like I'm a little further along than normal and I played that way this week," he said.

Final-round scores on Monday from the $5.6 million PGA Tour Hyundai Tournament of Champions (USA unless noted, par-73):

269 - Steve Stricker 68-63-69-69

272 - Martin Laird (GBR) 68-70-67-67

273 - Webb Simpson 68-68-69-68, Jonathan Byrd 67-71-67-68

277 - K.J. Choi (KOR) 70-73-69-65, Harrison Frazar 74-69-66-68

278 - Chris Kirk 75-66-70-67, Bryce Molder 71-70-67-70

279 - Johnson Wagner 72-72-68-67, Rory Sabbatini (RSA) 73-70-68-68, Ben Crane 72-71-68-68

280 - Scott Piercy 72-71-69-68, Nick Watney 73-71-68-68, D.A. Points 71-69-71-69, Kevin Na 73-64-71-72

281 - Keegan Bradley 69-72-75-65

282 - Sean O'Hair 73-70-70-69

284 - Bubba Watson 74-69-72-69, Mark Wilson 72-71-69-72

285 - Bill Haas 73-73-70-69

286 - Aaron Baddeley (AUS) 75-68-74-69

287 - Michael Bradley 68-75-75-69, Scott Stallings 74-69-74-70

289 - Gary Woodland 73-71-73-72

295 - Brendan Steele 76-76-72-71

296 - David Toms 76-74-75-71

298 - Jhonattan Vegas (VEN) 75-73-76-74