Stricker wins Senior PGA in playoff over Harrington, goes 2-for-2 in 2023 majors
By SCHUYLER DIXON
FRISCO, Texas (AP) Steve Stricker squeezed daughter and temporary caddie Izzi just a little harder after finishing a comeback and winning the Senior PGA Championship.
Now a six-time senior major winner, Stricker shared this one with a high school golf champion in Wisconsin, where Stricker also was born and raised.
“She looks up to what I do for a living, and she plays pretty dang good golf herself,” Stricker said. “It’s a lot of fun to have her with me. It's special.”
Stricker beat Padraig Harrington on the first hole of a playoff for the Senior PGA title Sunday, giving the 56-year-old American a sweep of the first two majors of the season.
Harrington forced the playoff with a short birdie putt on the par-5 18th, but put his drive in the replay of the 72nd hole in deep grass on the right side of the fairway.
After a failed attempt to hack the ball out, the 51-year-old Irishman dropped to what he said was about 270 yards away and put a 5-wood within 15 feet.
Stricker, who stayed away from his driver and laid up both times on 18, missed a second consecutive putt to win, but Harrington couldn't make the par putt to extend the playoff.
“If I hole the putt, we could say it was one of the best shots I ever hit,” Harrington said. “The fact that I didn’t hole the putt, we’ll forget about it. Golf is cruel.”
Stricker and Harrington, who was trying to become the first wire-to-wire winner of the Senior PGA since Rocco Mediate in 2016, finished 18 under. Stricker shot 3-under 69 and Harrington 70.
Stricker's win came two weeks after a second consecutive victory in the Regions Tradition.
Harrington's first PGA Tour Champions title was the U.S. Senior Open last year, when he held off Stricker by a stroke in a duel of the opposing Ryder Cup captains from 2021.
They were at it again in the first event on the Fields Ranch East course at the new headquarters of the PGA of America. The venue in Frisco, about 35 miles north of Dallas, is set to host the PGA Championship in 2027 and 2034 with talk of the Ryder Cup coming in the late 2030s.
“This means a lot,” Stricker said. “I spent a lot of time with the PGA of America during the Ryder Cup. To play in another PGA next year I think will be a lot of fun, too.”
Stewart Cink, playing with Stricker and Harrington but never threatening to crash their two-man battle, made a 60-footer for birdie 2 at No. 17 and eagled the par-5 18th to finish two shots back.
A week after turning 50, Cink finished his Champions debut with a 69. He intends to keep competing on the PGA Tour for now.
“This is no pushover golf course,” Cink said. “I'm taking a lot of confidence down the road from here. I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t looking forward to my next PGA Tour Champions. I don’t know when it’s going to be, but I’m looking forward to it.”
South Korean and Dallas resident Y.E. Yang, the 2009 PGA champion, was alone in fourth at 11 under after a 70. Defending champion Steven Alker shot 71 to finish 9 under along with Miguel Angel Jimenez and Darren Clarke.
All five of Stricker's previous senior major wins were by six shots, but this time he came from behind, erasing a five-shot deficit in the final nine holes of the third round to set up another two-player showdown with Harrington two years after the U.S. rout of Harrington's crew at the Ryder Cup.
Stricker, who extended his Champions tour record with a 49th consecutive round of par or better, took a two-shot lead with a chip-in for birdie at the 220-yard, par-3 13th to answer a bogey at 12.
Harrington narrowed the deficit to one with a birdie at the short par-4 15th. After both made bogey at 17, Harrington missed an eagle attempt at 18 to give Stricker a putt for the win. Stricker missed from about 18 feet, and Harrington made a short putt to force the playoff.
“Steve is probably the toughest guy you could ever play on a Sunday,” Harrington said. “He has to have the best wedge game in the world. He’s a fabulous putter, he’s a fabulous chipper. In a match play situation, he’s somebody you don’t want to be playing against.”
The lead began slipping away from Harrington on Saturday when a bathroom break started a sequence that led to a double-bogey, his first over-par hole of the tournament, at the par-4 16th.
Harrington had another adventure on the same hole in the final round when a wayward tee shot hit a fan in the head down the left side, caroming almost all the way back to the fairway.
After putting his second shot on the green, Harrington greeted the fan sitting in a cart and holding what appeared be a napkin on his head wound. After giving him a signed glove, Harrington took out his wallet and gave the fan $300.
“It never really seems adequate to give a guy a glove,” Harrington said. “He’s a grown man, like what’s he want with a glove with my signature? So I thought, he said his wife was inside, but, please take your wife out for dinner on me. I hope I gave him enough for dinner - $300 should cover it, wouldn’t it?”
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Updated May 28, 2023