Steve Stricker is the champion of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Despite a nervy start to his final round, including short misses on the greens on the front nine, Steve Stricker rallied to hold off hard-charging Martin Laird, Webb Simpson and defending champion Jonathan Byrd.
The world’s sixth-ranked player shot a final-round 4-under-par 69 to claim the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at The Plantation Course at Kapalua. Stricker finished 23-under 269 for the week to claim the first victory of the 2012 PGA TOUR season.
Stricker started today, as he did yesterday, with a five-shot lead. World No. 10 Webb Simpson, Jonathan Byrd and Martin Laird were up for the fight, but as Stricker missed makeable putts early, none of the three took the chance to tie or take the lead.
Laird, who was hot early with birdies on three, four and five, stumbled in the middle of his round with bogey on eight and 10. Finding himself six shots off the lead, the big- hitting Scotsman birdied five of his final seven holes, including a 10-footer on 18 to claim second alone at 20-under 272.
Simpson, with birdie on three and eagle on five, took bogey on six to let Stricker off the hook. Simpson would make three birdies coming home but needing eagle on 18 to get within one, hit his second out of bounds, killing his chances at a third win in 12 months. Simpson finished with four birdies, an eagle and one bogey on 19-under to tie third.
Defending champion Byrd rattled off three early birdies to get to 17-under and one shot back before making bogey on eight to halt his momentum. Byrd, playing in the final group with Stricker, birdied nine, 10, 14 and 16 to get within two. He ran out of gas on 17 as he three putted from 71 feet for bogey while Stricker tapped in his par. A par on 18 closed out his day at 19-under. Seven birdies and a bogey were not enough as Byrd settled for T3 with Simpson.
K.J. Choi made nine birdies on the day to offset one bogey en route to a final-round 65, tying Keegan Bradley for the low round of the day. The steady Korean finished 15-under, good for a T5 with a finally healthy Harrison Frazar. Frazar had six birdies and a bogey on the day to close at five-under68 and 15-under 277 for the week.
Stricker, who turns 45 next month, now has nine wins in his 40’s. He has a few more to go before he catches Vijay Singh’s record of 22 but he won’t worry about that tonight. With his wife and two daughters following along, Stricker claimed his 12th win in his career. His eight titles since 2009 lead the Tour. Stricker is the first golfer in 2012 to book his return to Kapalua for the 2013 edition of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Steve Stricker was asked all week and after his round if his neck was bothering him. He said it wasn’t. He went on to tell Golf Channel that he felt like he was longer this week than he was a year ago. After playing the Presidents Cup and Chevron World Challenge, Stricker looks physically (63 in round 2) and mentally (holding off the chase pack) ready to go for 2012.
Martin Laird has played Kapalua twice. He was 18-under in 2010 and 20-under in 2012. Probably should write that down if he returns next year.
Webb Simpson hit 17 of 18 greens in round 4. It didn’t look like this was his first appearance at Kapalua. Now if he can just get that long putter to cooperate…
Jonathan Byrd has played 19 of his 20 career rounds at Kapalua under par. Strong defense of his championship fell just short. Should move here.
K.J. Choi continues his consistent play into 2012. Twenty-three birdies is a good sign moving forward. “The Tank” was solid again.
Harrison Frazar remarked to Golf Channel that he’s finally healthy and that’s the difference in his game. After almost quitting (Down goes Frazar?!?!) he’s been finally able to practice and improve. One to watch after playing the last three rounds 16-under.
Chris Kirk, in his maiden voyage, shook off a opening-round 75 to play the last three rounds in 17-under. Plenty of upside here for The Captain.
Bryce Molder doesn’t crush it off the tee, but he can really roll the rock. His putting vaulted him to his fourth straight top 10 on TOUR.
Johnson Wagner and his mustache found his first top 10 since his win at Mayakoba. Led the field in Strokes Gained-Putting.
Rory Sabbatini was 20 SECONDS late to his tee time? I find it funny that the powers that be punish tardiness to the course but not slow play on it. Cost him a T5 and a few bucks.
Ben Crane didn’t know if his hip could make it through a year without surgery. He passed this test at hilly Kapalua. If he had surgery, I bet he’d Tweet it live.
Scott Piercy made over 181 feet of putts to lead the field. Unfortunately he was last in proximity to the hole. There’s a happy medium in there somewhere.
Nick Watney rounded into shape as the tournament wore on. His iron play was solid as he led the field in proximity to the hole but struggled to make anything this week. No worries here. Superb player.
Keegan Bradley finally put it all together in the final round shooting eight-under 65. First-timers here tend to struggle but I have a feeling he’ll be back if he gets his putter in line.
Bubba Watson led the field in driving distance. Raise your hand if you were surprised. Nine bogeys and two doubles ruined a chance at a big week.
Bill Haas’ slow start doomed his chances. He made three birdies in the first two rounds where the winning score was 23-under. Eleven birdies on the weekend shows he’s warming up.
Aaron Baddeley struggled to find consistency this week. That’s been a theme.
Gary Woodland, Brendan Steele and Johnny Vegas are young bombers. First time in Hawaii. Dismissed.
David Toms was obviously too concerned about the BCS Championship game this week. You could tell by his two-and-a-half hour round today WALKING at Kapalua. I just got tired writing that. His record at Waialae is amazing. He’ll bounce back.
Lucas Glover shaved off his beard. Did Samson paddleboard?