Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches

PGA National (Champion Course)


Stricker Is New No. 1

September 06, 2009

Stricker, long known for his putting skills finished T5 in putting with 26.5 per round and third in putts per GIR with 1.6.

NORTON, Mass. (AP) -- Given another chance to win a playoff event, Steve Stricker delivered back-to-back birdies to cap off a wild Labor Day finish and win the Deutsche Bank Championship on Monday, moving past Tiger Woods to the top of the FedEx Cup standings.

One week after missing a 10-foot par putt to force overtime, Stricker rolled in a 15-foot birdie on the 17th hole, then hit a delicate chip to tap-in range on the par-5 18th for a 4-under 67 one-shot victory over Jason Dufner and Scott Verplank.

The victory was his third of the year, and moved Stricker to a career-high No. 2 in the world ranking.

Better yet, he has a 909-point lead over Woods in the FedEx Cup with two tournaments remaining. Because the points will be reset after next week in Chicago, Stricker is assured of being no worse than the No. 2 seed and will have a chance at the Tour Championship to go after the $10 million prize.

"It's been a blast, and I want to keep riding it out," Stricker said as he tried again to fight back tears.

Stricker in tears after a victory is as predictable as Woods wearing a red shirt on Sunday, and the 42-year-old from Wisconsin has been going through plenty of tissue this year.

He won a playoff at Colonial and he won by three shots at the John Deere Classic. This might have been the toughest of them all.

Eight players had at least a share of the lead at one point, and Stricker was the sixth player over the final hour to came to the 18th hole with hopes of winning.

Dufner, who had to go through two stages of Q-school last year, two-putted from 40 feet for birdie at a 65 to become the first player to post at 16-under 268. Verplank birdied his last four holes, and his eagle putt from the fringe grazed the edge of the cup. He wound up with a 67 and thought he might be headed for a playoff.

Stricker split the middle of the 18th fairway with his tee shot and then went just over the green. His chip came out perfectly, stopping 2 feet from the cup, the easiest birdie putt he had all day.

He finished at 17-under 267 and won $1.35 million, pushing him over $6 million for the year.

Padraig Harrington recovered from two poor drives that cost him three penalty strokes and had a chance to join Dufner and Verplank until he narrowly missed a 10-foot eagle putt. He shot 68 and tied for fourth with Masters champion Angel Cabrera, who missed the 18th fairway and made par for a 65; and Dustin Johnson, who failed to get up-and-down from behind the 18th green and shot 66.

Johnson can only hope his performance was enough to earn a captain's pick for the Presidents Cup team.

Woods also was part of the fun, although briefly. He holed out for eagle on the sixth hole and tied the tournament record with a 30 on the front nine. He got within one shot of the lead -- but that was when the leaders still were on the practice range.

"Certainly, from where I was at, I couldn't win the tournament, even if I shot 60 or something like that," Woods said.

Really, the only suspense was whether he could go after a 59, and that ended with a par on the 16th. Woods wound up with a 63, the best score of the day. He tied for 11th, five shots behind.

And then the tournament began.

With so much activity on the leaderboard, Stricker was steady with pars along the back nine as the best hopes appeared to belong to everyone else. Verplank came out of nowhere with tough birdie putts from about 25 feet on the 16th and 17th, and a clutch metal over the green to the back fringe on the 18th.

Stricker, playing in the final group, knocked in his first birdie of the back nine from 15 feet on the 17th, then made sure he wouldn't have to sweat out the final birdie on the last hole.

A week ago at The Barclays, Stricker was tied for the lead over the closing holes with Heath Slocum and had to settle for second when Slocum made a 20-footer for par and Stricker's 10-foot par putt broke across the cup.

Stricker also won the opening playoff event in 2007, and he now has had 28 of 40 rounds in the 60s during this postseason bonanza. Told that he had replaced Woods atop the FedEx Cup standings, Stricker smiled.

"We're taking up space in his world," he said. "But I'm thrilled to death to be playing how I'm playing."