PGA Tour Champions
Steve Stricker delivers another knockout in the Regions Tradition, again winning by six
The first major of the PGA Tour Champions season was in need of a mercy rule to spare the field the relentless punishment Steve Stricker was inflicting on it Sunday, a bruising victory that went down as a fourth-round knockout and a successful title defense in the Regions Tradition.
Stricker, 56, was tied for the lead at the outset of the final round at Greystone Golf & Country Club in Hoover, Ala., birdied four of his first five holes to open a four-stroke lead, increased it to six on the back nine, and won by six. It was his third victory in his last four starts in the Tradition, the only blemish a playoff loss to Alex Cjeka in 2021.
Yes, Stricker owns this event. The margins of his three Tradition victories were six strokes each, and he has finished inside the top five in seven of eight starts in the event. His comfort level was on display following a one-hour weather delay on the back nine on Sunday. When play resumed, he holed a 12-foot birdie putt at 15, followed with another birdie at 16, and then took a leisurely victory lap on the final two holes.
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He closed with a seven-under-par 65 and a 72-hole total of 23-under 265. Robert Karlsson, who shared the 54-hole lead with Stricker, tied for second with Ernie Els.
The victory was the 13th of Stricker’s senior career, surpassing his total victories on the PGA Tour. It too was his second win this season and the fifth senior major of his career.
The field surely knew what was coming on Sunday, given his track record in the tournament, and his second nine in the third round on Saturday. He birdied his last four holes and five of his last six for a back-nine 30, then on Sunday birdied four of his first five holes en route to a four-under 32 on the front to open a four-stroke lead.
“I needed to shoot probably like four under yesterday on the back nine to kind of stay within reaching distance of Robert and a couple other guys up there,” he said. “Then to get to six under on the back nine and birdie the last four, and then to come out today and make a statement early, I think that was just as important. Birdied the first three today, so I felt comfortable. My game was good. I rolled in a few putts, hit it close at times. It was a great day.”
The question in the wake of this dominant performance is what it portends for the rest of the season. Stricker has never played what would be considered a full schedule on the senior tour. He played only 12 events last year, none in 2021, when his focus, as U.S. captain, was on the Ryder Cup, and 13 in 2020. Before that, he was still largely committed to playing PGA Tour events.
“I plan on playing,” he said unconvincingly when asked about making a run at the season-long Charles Schwab Cup. “I’m part of the Ryder Cup team [as an assistant captain], there’s other family things I like to do, hunting, my daughter’s playing tour school at the end of the year.”
Other senior tour players no doubt would prefer he be entirely preoccupied with other endeavors as the season progresses, if his dominance in the Tradition is indicative of how the rest of the golf season might go.
But for now, it is Stricker’s tour, and the rest of them are tourists, on the outside looking in.