PGA Tour
Stricker earns 12th tour win at Kapalua



Kapalua, HI (Sports Network) - It wasn't the best round Steve Stricker ever played, but it was enough to get him the win.

Stricker closed with four-under 69 on Monday to win the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions by three strokes on the Plantation Course at Kapalua.

He earned his 12th PGA Tour title at 23-under 269.

"I never let up today, but it was tough. It's always tough trying to win, and it's even more tough, I think, when you have a lead like I had," Stricker, who started the day with a five-shot lead, said in a televised interview.

"I played good, though. I just didn't get the ball in the hole. Overall, I'm proud of what I did today and this week."

Stricker, 44, won for the sixth time in his last seven tries with at least a share of the 54-hole lead. His advantage dropped to one shot, but he sealed the victory with two birdies in the last three holes.

Scotland's Martin Laird fired a six-under 67 to take second place at 20-under 272. Webb Simpson and 2011 winner Jonathan Byrd both had 68s and shared third at 19-under 273.

For the second straight day, Stricker got off to a slow start with six pars and a bogey in the first seven holes. In that span, he three-putted the par- five fifth and dropped a shot on the sixth after flubbing his short second shot.

As Stricker was doing that, Laird and Simpson picked up three strokes in the opening five holes. Meanwhile, Byrd had three birdies in the first six holes.

After Stricker's bogey at the sixth, the five-stroke lead he had at the start of the day was down to a single shot over Laird and Byrd.

Simpson, who bogeyed No. 6, birdied the eighth to also get within one, but the eighth proved to be a big turning point for the other three. Stricker drained a 23-footer to move to 19-under, while Laird and Byrd both tripped to bogeys to slide three back.

"It was like [Sunday] all over again. I felt it kind of slipping away," said Stricker. "I was still patient. Frustrated, but patient. That birdie at eight calmed me down quite a bit."

Stricker made it two birdies in a row as he chipped his third within a foot at the par-five ninth. He rolled in a 15-footer at 12 for his first birdie of the week on that hole.

The Wisconsin native parred his next three holes, including another three-putt on a par-five, the 15th.

Stricker's lead was two entering the final three holes. And as he has done all week, he closed with a flourish. His approach at the 16th stopped within four feet for a birdie to stay two clear of Byrd, who also had a four-foot birdie putt there.

After a par on 17, Stricker played the 18th to perfection. His drive found the short grass and he knocked his second just off the front edge of the putting surface.

Stricker chipped to within six feet and converted the birdie to seal his victory.

"I was proud of the way I hit the ball, and not so proud the way I putted it," Stricker said of his 32 putts in a greenside interview.

After three birdies in the first six holes, Byrd tripped to a bogey at eight. He came right back with birdies on nine and 10. He birdied the 14th and 16th to stay within two, but dropped into a share of second with a bogey at 17.

Laird had three straight birdies from the third, but tripped to bogeys at eight and 10. He caught fire on the back nine with five birdies in his last seven holes to end at 20-under.

"The first leaderboard I saw was on nine, and I saw [Stricker] was one-over through seven and we were only one or two back," Laird said. "You realize you still have a chance. But as I said, I really had to birdie No. 9 and then my bogey on 10 was costly. My target was to get to 20-under and see what happened, and I did that. So I'm very pleased with that."

Simpson parred six in a row after his birdie on the eighth. He converted birdie tries at 15 and 16 to get to 19-under, then parred the final two holes to share third.

NOTES: Stricker earned $1.12 million for the win and will move up one spot to No. 5 when the world rankings are released Tuesday...Stricker has won nine times since turning 40...As he was this week, Stricker will be the highest ranked player in the field next week as Mark Wilson defends his title at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

01/09 21:38:36 ET