Steve Stricker entered the final day of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions with a five-stroke lead, but he nearly gave it all away: after a bogey on hole No. 6, his lead had shrunk to just one. He made par or better on the remaining 12 holes, though, preserving his lead to win the PGA's season-opening event at the Plantation Course at Kapalua in Maui, Hawaii.
Stricker regained some breathing room with birdies on holes No. 8 and 9, and he birdied three more times on the back nine. As he admitted after finishing, he was frustrated on the front but knew that he could finish strong.
"Over the years I've kind of treaded water on the front and then I've usually played pretty well on the back," he said. "So I just knew there was birdie holes out there, and I also kept telling myself, if I shoot 3-under today, Jonathan Byrd is going to have to shoot 7-under, or Martin Laird or Webb Simpson, whoever was five shots actually they would have had to shoot 8-under.
"So I just kept telling myself, you know, I still I'm all right. Don't worry about them. Make two or three or four birdies, and we're fine. But it's hard to do. You feel like you just want it to end and be done. But it can't."
Laird, who entered Monday in a three-way tie for second place with Webb Simpson and Jonathan Byrd, moved ahead by one stroke by shooting 6-under. His birdie on the final hole proved to be the difference -- and quite lucrative: he took home $650,000, while Byrd and Simpson tied for third place and took home $369,000. Stricker earned $1.12 million of the $5.6 million total purse.
This was the 12th win of Stricker's career, and the eighth since 2009. He's already the only TOUR player to win multiple tournaments in each of the last three years, and now he's just one win away from making it four straight.