Stricker Strokes His Way To Victory At Kapalua

Posted: January 11, 2012 by Kodi in Hitting the Greens

Hitting the Greens

PGA Tour Season opens with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions

Played on the beautiful plantation course in Kapalua on the island of Maui

The Hyundai Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii on the island of Maui is a limited field with just winners from the 2011 season, hence the name. The problem is that many of the previous year’s winners opt out from playing in the PGA Tour’s opening tournament. There has also been discussions about expanding the field by offering exemptions to all previous winners at Kapalua or by offering invitations to the players who have won tournaments in the past 2 years. Just last year Kapalua had 19 of the top 40 players in the world playing in the tournament but this season there was just 19 of the top 100.

Phil Mickelson hasn’t appeared in the field at Kapalua since 2002, while Tiger Woods hasn’t been eligible for two years he quit showing up back in 2006. Brandt Snedeker, Dustin Johnson, Fredrik Jacobson all have legitimate reasons as they are recovering from injuries. I guess Justin Rose has a pass since his wife just gave birth, but it was their 2nd child and if you’ve seen it once you’ve seen it enough you’d think he would love to get away to the tropics of Maui. Charl Schwartzel, Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Adam Scott, Graeme McDowell all don’t have an excuse that makes it okay with me, varying from getting tired from flying across the country, to rather playing a tournament closer to home, or claiming that this isn’t a real opening tournament.

Tell that to the 28 players who chose to play in Kapalua to open their season and try explaining to Steve Stricker that he just won a “meaningless” match. This isn’t an exhibition game, nor is it a pre-season warmup, this was the opening PGA Tour event and has collected 500 FedEx Cup points to take an early lead in 2012. Stricker won by 3 strokes shooting a final round 69 and 72 hole score of 269 eeking out his playing partner, Scotland’s Martin Laird. He shot every round in the 60’s and was just the 7th player to achieve such a feat since the tournament moved to the Plantation course. After a 9 year streak of international players winning at Kapalua Stricker’s victory following Jonathan Byrd’s last season means an American has won it two years in a row. It was Stricker’s 12 overall win but he has also won 8 of the last 50 tournaments which is the highest winning rate of any player in the Tour during that span.

It was quite a rollercoaster as Stricker had nearly given away the lead midway through the final round. He had a bogey on hole number 6 which was just his 4th hole over par during the entire tournament and he was just a hole away from 8 where he had 2 of those 4 over par scores. “I felt it kind of slipping away, but I was patient, frustrated but patient” Stricker said in his post match comments.The patience paid off an it was with a great shot onto the green of the par 3 204 yard 8th hole. When he knocked in his 24 foot putt he had slowed down his skid and birdied 3 of the next 5 holes. Stricker is known for his putting stroke and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that follows golf that the Wisconsin native had the fewest putts in the tournament.

The pressure was coming from fellow top 10 player Webb Simpson, last years winner Jonathan Byrd and his playing mate Martin Laird. Webb Simpson shot a final round 68 and at one point was just a single stroke behind Stricker but ended up tied for 3rd with a score of -19. Webb Simpson also finished with a -19 and a final round 68 and did so by hitting over 80% of greens in regulation. Laird birdied 5 of his last 7 holes to finish -20 for the tournament just 3 shots behind Stricker but good enough for sole ownership of 2nd place and the 300 FedEx points that come with it and the $650,000 purse.

The big winner however was Steve Stricker who has won at least two tournaments a season the previous three years and is just one more win away from extending it to 4 seasons. He also won the $1.12 million dollar purse and jumped out to an early lead against the rest of the field in the PGA Tour. Stricker has been a great golfer for the past 15 seasons and when he needs a little pep talk all his caddie Jimmy Johnson says to him is “do what you do” and then he does it. When stricker was asked about the comment he told reporters that “I think that sums it up the best, we just go about and do our thing. It may not be the flashiest at times, but I do other things well.” “Everybody has got a little bit different game, and that’s the way I look at mine.” Stricker continued “do the things that we know how to do the best.”

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