Steve Stricker Holds off Pursuers, Wins PGA Tour Hyundai Tournament of Champions

Pat KondzellaCorrespondent IJanuary 10, 2012

KAPALUA, HI - JANUARY 09:  Steve Stricker reacts to winning the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course on January 9, 2012 in Kapalua, Hawaii.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Steve Stricker doesn't dazzle you with monster 300-yard drives.

He doesn't bend shots to ridiculous extremes a la Bubba Watson.

The PGA Tour veteran won't emulate Phil Mickelson's swashbuckling, risk-taking attack of golf courses.

And he doesn't have fancy golf attire like Rickie Fowler and Ian Poulter.

Stricker is steady Eddie. He hits fairways, hits greens and makes a bucket-load of putts on the way to winning golf tournaments in a...boring way?

Stricker shot a final round of four-under (par) 69 in Monday's final round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions on the 7,392-yard, par 73 Plantation Course at Kapalua to beat Martin Laird by three shots, and Jonathan Byrd and Webb Simpson by four each. Stricker's final round gave him a total of 23-under (par) for the tournament.

Holding a five-shot lead entering the final round, Stricker withstood early charges by Laird, Byrd and Simpson while he was struggling to find his game.

A birdie machine heading into the final round, early on the 44-year-old Stricker stopped making putts and his closest pursuers were making birdies in bunches. Stricker missed a makeable birdie putt at the 532-yard, par-five fifth and three-putted for bogey on the short 398-yard, par-four sixth.

Through seven holes, Stricker had struggled to a round of one-over (par) while Byrd and Laird were both at three-under (par) for the day and only a shot back, while Simpson was at two-under for the round and only two shots behind.

Stricker's putter, a strength for him all week (second in putts per greens hit at 1.68), had gone cold and his chasers' putters were heating up.

He later told Curt Byrum of the Golf Channel, "I never let up today. It's tough. It's even more tough when you have a lead like I had. I played good, though. I just didn't get the ball in the hole." He later added, "I felt it kind of slipping away."

The turning point may have come at the 203-yard, par-three eighth when Stricker jarred a 23-foot putt. Stricker told Byrum, "That birdie at eight calmed me down quite a bit."

Stricker then followed that up with another birdie at the 521-yard, par-five ninth after stiffing his chip shot, leaving him with a kick-in birdie.

After the birdies, Stricker had built his lead back up to three shots over Byrd and Simpson. Stricker was never caught by his three closest pursuers and ended the tournament in style by making a six-foot birdie on the 663-yard, par-five finishing hole.

The win was Stricker's 12th career win on Tour and ninth win in his 40's to move him up to No. 5the highest ranked-Americanin the world rankings.

For the week, Stricker was T11 in driving accuracy at 67 percent, and T13 in greens hit in regulation.

The Tour now moves to the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii, for the Sony Open where Stricker is scheduled to compete with other scheduled notables such as Simpson, Byrd, Vijay Singh, Davis Love III and defending champion Mark Wilson.

"It's always cool to get a hug from your family after you win," Stricker told Byrum. This sums up Stricker's life philosophy. Family always comes first for the American.

It's hard not to root for someone like this.