January 8 2012
KAPALUA, Hawaii – It might not have been the straightest of paths, but Steve Stricker ended up exactly where he began in Sunday’s third round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions – leading by five shots.
Thanks to four consecutive birdies to end his round, Stricker produced a 4-under 69 to put him at 19 under for the tournament. That’s five shots ahead of three players – Webb Simpson, Martin Laird and defending champ Jonathan Byrd.
Stricker will be paired with Byrd in Monday’s final group. While Byrd won here last year, Stricker will be looking for his first PGA TOUR win in the state of Hawaii. He’s 0 for 17 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and next week’s Sony Open in Hawaii.
“He’s a tough guy to catch,” Byrd said. “But I don’t think any lead is too much.”
With a five-shot lead going into Sunday, Stricker saw it reduced to one by the 14th hole. At that point, he had just one birdie and was even par on his round, while his pursuers were making things happen.
But Stricker birdied the par-5 15th, then chipped in from off the green at the par-4 16th. “I stole a birdie at 16,” he said.
He finished up with birdies at the par-4 17th and par-5 18th. Meanwhile, Simpson, his playing partner, was losing ground, as he played the final four holes in even par.
Simpson also shot 69, while Byrd and Laird carded 6-under 67s.