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Steve Stricker wins KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in playoff

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Steve Stricker wins KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in playoff

Second consecutive senior major title and sixth overall; bests Padraig Harrington at Fields Ranch East

    Written by Bob McClellan @ChampionsTour

    Move Steve Stricker up a rank.

    The victorious U.S. captain at the last Ryder Cup now should be known as Major Steve.

    Stricker outdueled Padraig Harrington over the final 19 holes on Sunday to win the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Fields Ranch East in Frisco, Texas. In the process he claimed his second consecutive senior major and the sixth of his career.

    Steve Stricker wins KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

    “The course showed some teeth at times today,” Stricker said. “Some difficult pins. Some easy pins. But it was a little crustier, I thought, on the greens. The wind was tricky at times. Yeah, but it feels great. It feels great to do it … not only to do it and have Izzi (his youngest daughter) on the bag was even more special.

    “We had a great time this week and that was the goal, right, just to come here and have a good time with her, and to throw a win on top of it is even icing on the cake.”

    Stricker joins a group of only five other players to win at least six senior majors. Bernhard Langer has the most, with 11.

    The wizard of the wedge from Wisconsin had a one-shot lead over the long-hitting Irishman when they reached the par-5 18th. Harrington crushed a driver some 335 yards to leave himself about 200 yards in, while Stricker laid back with a 3-wood off the tee to force himself to lay up into wedge position.

    Harrington’s second shot somehow miraculously landed short of a left greenside bunker, bounced back and to the right, and skirted along the bunker before settling on the green about 25 feet from the hole. Harrington two-putted, and Stricker could manage only par, forcing a playoff.

    They returned to 18, but this time, with the honors, Harrington lost his drive right inside a hazard. He tried to hack it out but topped it into the water. Dropping well back in the fairway, he ripped a 5-wood from 272 yards to about 13 feet. But Harrington, the European captain who opposed Stricker at the 2021 Ryder Cup, missed a par putt to tie, giving Stricker the victory.

    “Obviously when we came back out to the playoff the wind had changed and it was, I just didn't have a nice feeling about hitting it up the left over those bunkers,” Harrington said. “I let it go on the wind. Could have been worse, the lie. Actually in hindsight it would have been better if it was worse, because I would have dropped it in the first place. But the lie wasn't so bad.

    “I was trying to get it down the right-hand side. I could have gone out left. But I thought I could play a great shot down the right. And I just knifed it. I just didn't get down to it. The ball was below my feet. Fat would have been better than thin as it turned out. But there you go. These things happen.”

    Stricker won the first major of the year, the Regions Tradition, when he lapped the field by five shots. It was his second consecutive victory in Birmingham, Alabama, and his third there overall.

    Stricker now has three wins this season and leads the Charles Schwab Cup race by a wide margin.

    “I've always been a good wedge player, all the way back to my days at Illinois,” Stricker said. “It was always the strength of my game. I grew up on a couple of short courses, small greens where I really had to manage my game around the greens. Chipping, putting, little shots into the green. So I grew up doing that. I take a lot of pride in it. I work hard at it. I feel like I've got a simple approach in my own mind and I continue to do it and do it over and over. I try to play to those strengths.

    “Just like on 18. For me to try to drive it there and then go for it, that's not my strength. So I just play back, lay it up, and put a wedge in my hand. That's my strength. So yeah, it's something that I work hard (at) and I take a lot of pride in.”

    Harrington, who consistently played from spots 20 to 30 yards in front of Stricker, had nothing but praise for his counterpart.

    “Steve is probably the toughest guy you could ever play on a Sunday,” Harrington said. “He has to have the best wedge game in the world. Like, he's a fabulous putter, he's a fabulous chipper, but his wedge play like at the first 14 holes was just spectacular. Like, really, like did he ever hit it outside -- like he was getting, it was getting to the stage where it looked like he would hole a wedge. I know he did this week. But it was very impressive.”

    Stewart Cink, playing in the final group with Stricker and Harrington, finished alone in third place in his PGA TOUR Champions debut. Cink hit a 60-foot birdie putt on 17 and had the only eagle of the day on 18 to finish at 16 under, two shots out of the playoff.

    “I had a great time,” Cink said. “I love playing with those guys. This has been fun this week. I definitely got my feet wet, and I'm looking forward to playing more of these.”

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