Stricker pulls away on Sunday to win second straight Regions Tradition

Published 10:04 pm Sunday, May 14, 2023

By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

HOOVER – Greystone members may want to reach out to Steve Stricker for advice on how to play the Founders Course so well.

Stricker took home his second straight win at the Regions Tradition with a 23-under-par score to win by six strokes at Greystone Golf and Country Club on Sunday, May 14.

Stricker’s win was the third in his last four appearances at the Tradition, and the fifth PGA Tour Champions major win of his career.

His winning score of 23-under-par set a Tradition record for the lowest score since the tournament moved to Birmingham in 2011.

Stricker entered Sunday’s final round tied with Robert Karlsson for the lead at 16-under-par after Stricker birdied his last four holes during Saturday’s third round.

Stricker carried over that momentum into an excellent start on Sunday as he birdied four of his first five holes to pull away from Karlsson and Padraig Harrington in his group.

After the tournament, Stricker said that stretch of birdies was crucial to securing the win.

“I needed that finish yesterday just to kind of keep touch with the leaders,” he said. “I was thinking if I could just get a couple coming in, and I end up getting four of them coming in, and then to start off with three today, that’s seven in a row. So, it kind of put me in a position where it was my tournament to win.”

He added birdies on the 11th and 12th holes to increase his lead, but he shot his only bogey of the round on the 14th hole just before a thunderstorm delayed play for an hour.

Stricker came back from the delay strong with birdies on the 15th and 16th holes to reach 23-under-par and seal the six-stroke victory.

While Stricker cruised to victory, he said it wasn’t as easy to hang on to a dominant lead as he made it look.

“It’s good in a way, but it’s also hard when you’re trying to win a tournament,” he said about leading big. “You don’t want to screw up, you’re protecting. And that’s a hard way to play sometimes. But after the rain delay came out and [I] made a nice fight to make birdie at 15 and that settled me down too again.”

However, he didn’t play in front for the entire tournament. He was one shot back on Billy Andrade, Timothy O’Neal and Paul Broadhurst after Thursday’s first round, and Ernie Els led after 36 holes on Friday.

But Stricker fought to the top, just like he’s done so often at Greystone. His secret to winning may just be that he enjoys the Birmingham area and Greystone.

“I just love coming here,” he said. “I appreciate what they do here in this area. You know, I try not to jinx myself by saying anything dumb, and I don’t know what it is about the course, but I enjoy playing here. And I’ve had some good rounds here over the years.”

For Karlsson, his tied-for-second finish was another missed opportunity to secure his first PGA Tour or PGA Tour Champions victory. He now has seven runner-up finishes between the two tours, but has 11 DP World Tour victories in Europe.

Ernie Els also finished tied for second with a score of 17-under-par. Els led after the second round, but he shot a double bogey on the 5th hole during the third round that left him six behind the lead going into Sunday.

Els recovered in the final round, shooting a bogey-free 7-under-par 65, but Stricker’s dominant lead meant it wasn’t enough to win.

Other notable names participating included Miguel Angel Jimenez, who finished tied-for-fifth, Vijay Singh, Reteif Goosen, Jim Furyk and John Daly.

Stricker took advantage of Charles Schwab Cup leader David Toms withdrawing from the Tradition with an illness to take the Cup standings lead as the season’s highest earning golfer.

The win was also historic for Stricker’s caddie, Joe LaCava, Jr. It was the first win of his career as a caddie.

His father served as Tiger Woods’ caddie for 12 years from 2011 to 2023, as well as Fred Couples’ caddie for 20 years before that.

“He’s such a good kid,” Stricker said. “And his dad was caddie for a lot of the great players in our game over the years. And this is about the third tournament that I’ve had Joe on the bag, and he’s just a great kid, works hard, and so to get him his first victory on any tour was pretty cool.”