Steve Stricker birdies final two holes for Deutsche Bank win

By Doug FergusonSeptember 8, 2009, 3:00 am
DeutscheBank Logo 2007NORTON, Mass. – Steve Stricker can build a strong case for the Deutsche Bank Championship as the biggest victory of his career.

It was his first win with Tiger Woods in the tournament. His third victory of the season moved him up to a career-high No. 2 in the world ranking. And he replaced Woods atop the FedEx Cup standings.

What satisfied Stricker the most, however, was how he won.

In a wild Labor Day finish on the TPC Boston, where a half-dozen players came to the par-5 18th hole with hopes of winning, Stricker finished with back-to-back birdies for a 4-under 67 and a one-shot victory Monday.

“Knowing I had to make a couple of birdies and actually doing it means a lot,” he said.

Steve Stricker
Steve Stricker has three wins on the 2009 PGA Tour season. (Getty Images)

The names kept changing atop the leaderboard throughout the back nine, and Stricker only found comfort from seeing his name in the mix. Jason Dufner was the first player to break out of the tie with a two-putt birdie on the 18th. Standing in the 17th fairway, Stricker heard another cheer through the trees and figured it was Scott Verplank making birdie – his fourth in a row – to tie for the lead.

That’s when Stricker took over.

He knocked in a 15-foot birdie on the 17th, helped by getting a good read on the tricky putt from Retief Goosen. Then, he split the middle of the 18th fairway and hit a hybrid just over the green. He hit a delicate chip to tap-in range for the win.

“It was a tough day. There was a lot of guys in the mix,” Stricker said. “And I just found a way to get it done.”

Stricker finished at 17-under 267 and earned $1.35 million. He also built a 909-point lead over Woods in the FedEx Cup with two tournaments remaining. Because the points are reset after next week in Chicago, Stricker is assured of being no worse than the No. 2 seed in the Tour Championship with a chance to win the $10 million prize.

“It’s been a blast, and I want to keep riding it out,” Stricker said, his voice cracking. His only failure Monday was winning a PGA Tour event and trying to get through an interview without crying. This makes him 0 for 7.

Dufner, who had to go through two stages of Q-School last year, two-putted from 40 feet for birdie at a 65 to become the first player to post at 16-under 268. Verplank, bidding for a captain's pick for the U.S. Presidents Cup team [tune in to Golf Channel at 1:30 p.m. ET Tuesday for live coverage of the Presidents Cup captains' selections] birdied his last four holes, and his eagle putt from the fringe grazed the edge of the cup. He wound up with a 67 and thought he might be headed for a playoff.

About the only player not in the mix was Woods, although he set the tone for the wild finish by tying a tournament record with a 30 on the front nine and getting within one shot of the leaders – even though they were still on the range – until settling for a 63.

His early departure didn’t make it easier on anyone, not with five major champions among the top 10.

“I knew that Strick would be tough to catch today,” Verplank said. “He’s not Tiger, but you know what? He may be the second-best player, at least on this tour. The guy is really playing good. So I knew he was going to be tough to catch. And it turns out he was.”

Padraig Harrington recovered from two poor drives that cost him three penalty strokes and had a chance to join Dufner and Verplank until he narrowly missed a 10-foot eagle putt. He shot 68 and tied for fourth with Masters champion Angel Cabrera, who missed the 18th fairway and made par for a 65; and Dustin Johnson, who failed to get up-and-down from behind the 18th green and shot 66.

It was the fourth time in five weeks that Harrington, winless since his PGA Championship last year, had a chance in the final round. He had a one-shot lead going to the back nine until hooking his tee shot into a hazard on the 10th, and hooking another tee shot on the 12th for a lost ball.

“I’m disappointed with today because it was in my control,” said Harrington. “I was leading the tournament, and going into the back nine it was mine to lose. And I lost it. I’ll feel this one a lot more than some of the others.”

Woods also was part of the fun, although briefly.

“Certainly, from where I was at, I couldn’t win the tournament, even if I shot 60 or something like that,” Woods said.

Really, the only suspense was whether he could go after a 59, and that ended with a par on the 16th. Woods bogeyed the next hole and had to settle for his best score of the year. He tied for 11th, five shots behind.

When he left, the tournament began.

With so much noise from so many birdies, Stricker was plodding along with pars on the back nine, wanting only to hit greens and give himself birdie chances. He waited until the end to deliver.

It was quite a change from last week, when Stricker missed a 10-foot par putt on the 18th hole at The Barclays to force a playoff. That loss stung, but not for long.

Asked if it was gratifying to bounce back one week later and have another putt on the 18th hole, Stricker laughed.

“This one was more my length, I’ll tell you that,” he said. “I liked this 1-footer.”

Stricker also won the opening playoff event in 2007, and he now has had 28 of 40 rounds in the 60s during this postseason bonanza. Told that he had replaced Woods atop the FedEx Cup standings, Stricker put it all in perspective.

“We’re taking up space in his world,” he said. “But I’m thrilled to death to be playing how I’m playing.”

ances at Liberty National on putts that often broke multiple times before reaching the hole. He worked some on his short game during his three days at home, no more than usual.

“I really putted well on the weekend, I just didn’t make a lot of putts,” he said. “When you’re lipping out a lot of putts, you’re not putting poorly. Those greens were a tough read for a bunch of people.”

Woods has a hard time finding much fault with anything this year, except for not winning a major. His five victories are twice as much as anyone else, and he still holds the No. 1 stop in the FedEx Cup standings going into the second week of the playoffs.

The big surprise is Heath Slocum, who was planning a trip to Switzerland this week for the Omega Masters on the European Tour until he won last week at Liberty National. That moved him from second-to-last place at No. 124 to No. 3, right behind Woods and Stricker.

Players have been debating whether Slocum earned too many points, and they tried to balance his rocket rise with the notion that he did beat a field at The Barclays that included the top 124 players on the PGA Tour.

The top 100 qualified for the Deutsche Bank (minus Paul Casey, who is injured), and that number will be pared to the top 70 players in points going to the third round next week at the BMW Championship outside Chicago.

Woods is virtually a lock to at least contest for the $10 million prize that comes with the FedEx Cup, especially the way he has played over the last two months—two victories, two runner-up finishes.

“This last stretch, I think I’ve hit the ball pretty good,” Woods said. “I’ve putted well in stretches. Some people have alluded to other things, but that’s not too bad for my last four events. The overall year has been very consistent.”

He missed the FedEx Cup playoffs last year recovering from knee surgery. The last time he played the Deutsche Bank was in 2007, when he tied for second, four shots behind Phil Mickelson. Woods took nine more putts than Mickelson that day.

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

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Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

“I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

“It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

“Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

“It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

“This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.