Stricker claims first playoff tournament

Monday, August 27, 2007
Steve Stricker celebrated after sinking a putt on the 18th hole Sunday to win The Barclays in Harrison, N.Y. (ED BETZ ~ Associated Press)

What looked like more heartache for Steve Stricker turned into the sweetest victory of his career.

After going 6 1/2 years and 146 tournaments without winning, Stricker birdied four of his last five holes Sunday at The Barclays in Harrison, N.Y., for a stunning turnaround that gave him a 2-under 69 and a two-shot victory over K.J. Choi.

"It was hard, but it was fun," Stricker said, his voice choking as tears streamed down the side of his face. "I never knew if I was going to win again."

It sure wasn't easy. Not with 10 players -- five of them major champions -- separated by three shots. And not with Choi holing two birdie putts that were a combined 95 feet, making it look as if he were destined to win.

Stricker, who already let four chances of winning slip away this year, refused to buckle.

And when his final birdie from 8 feet dropped into the cup, he raised his arms and hugged his caddie, Tom Matthews, who first caddied for Stricker when he won the 2001 Match Play Championship in Australia.

Even without Tiger Woods, the inaugural PGA Tour Playoffs got off to a rousing start.

Along with the fourth victory of his career, Stricker moved to the top of the FedEx Cup standings with a 2,050-point lead over Choi, who closed with a 70. Rory Sabbatini, who had a share of the lead at the turn, closed with a 68 to finish another stroke back and moved up to No. 3 in the playoff race.

Woods skipped the first of four playoff events and tumbled to No. 4, nearly 5,000 points behind Stricker.

The next stop is the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston, which starts Friday. There are three tournaments remaining before someone captures the $10 million deferred bonus

LPGA Tour

Lorena Ochoa won her third straight LPGA title with a five-stroke victory in the Safeway Classic on Sunday.

Ochoa shot a 71 in the final round for a 12-under 204 at Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland, Ore., for her sixth victory of the season.

In-Bee Park (64), Christina Kim (69), Sophie Gustafson (75) and Mhairi McKay (72) all finished at 7-under 209.

The top-ranked Ochoa, from Mexico, won the Canadian Women's Open in Edmonton, Alberta, the previous week. Before that, she won the Women's British Open for her first major title.

The last player to win three straight tournaments was Annika Sorenstam in 2005. Sorenstam won four straight in 2001, matching the LPGA record.

Champions Tour

Denis Watson eagled the second hole of a seven-man playoff Sunday to win the Boeing Classic in Snoqualmie, Wash.

Playing No. 18 for the third time in an hour, Watson hit a 3-wood to about 18 feet, then made a 22-foot putt, giving an emphatic fist pump as the ball dropped to end the largest playoff in Champions Tour history.

Craig Stadler missed a long eagle putt from the front of the green, and R.W. Eaks missed his 12-footer for eagle.

It was the second victory of the season for Watson, who won the Senior PGA Championship in May.

Gil Morgan, Joe Ozaki, Dana Quigley and David Eger also finished at 9-under for the tournament after a wild final nine holes where the lead changed on almost every hole.

-- The Associated Press

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