TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Steve Stricker finally hit the 18th fairway on Omni Tucson National’s Catalina Course. He has his first PGA Tour Champions victory — and a conquistador helmet trophy — to show for it.
“I was glad to finally make par on it and walk away with the helmet,” Stricker said.
Stricker came through Sunday in the Cologuard Classic a year after hitting left into the water on 18 to blow a chance for a victory in his senior debut, and a day after another 3-wood drive rolled into the water in a closing double bogey.
“I was fighting it,” said Stricker, in tears after the victory. “You have those demons in your head and I was fully aware of what I had to do on 18 as I was playing today. I wanted to get enough of a lead where I could do something different out there. It’s just a tough driving hole for me and it is for everybody. A couple guys in my group hit it in the water today. If you pull it a little bit you run through the fairway, and if you push it a little bit you hit it in the water. It’s a challenging hole and somehow I just guided it out there and got it in the fairway.”
The 12-time PGA Tour winner birdied the par-5 15th and closed with three pars for a 4-under 69, hitting another 3-wood on the par-4 18th. He finished two strokes ahead of fellow Madison, Wisconsin, player Jerry Kelly (65), Gene Sauers (70) and Scott Dunlap (71).
The 51-year-old Stricker finished at 14-under 205 after opening with rounds of 6 and 70.
“I didn’t make a bogey today, which I’m really proud of, and made some really good saves to do that. Just hung in there and finished it off. … It’s a relief, to tell you the truth.”
Stricker won in his eighth start on the 50-and -over tour. He has six top three-finishes, tying for second two weeks ago in Florida in the Chubb Classic. He was second in Tucson behind Tom Lehman last year, losing a two-shot lead on the final three holes.
“It all worked out finally. It’s been a challenge out here. I put a little extra pressure on myself to try to win. I’ve been close, let one get away here last year, so it’s finally really a nice feeling to finally pull one out.”
He was jokingly asked if he planned to wear the shiny conquistador helmet around town when he returns to Madison.
“Geez, I don’t know,” ”Probably not, but I’ll cherish it forever. It means a lot. It’s my first Champions Tour win and it was a battle — and it always is — and it means a lot.”
Bob Estes (69), Olin Browne (69) and Rocco Mediate (72) tied for fifth at 10 under.