Steven Alker wins Charles Schwab Cup Championship, finishes No. 2 in season-long race
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Written by Bob McClellan
With Steve Stricker long having removed any drama as to who would win the Charles Schwab Cup, it was up to his compadres on PGA TOUR Champions to create some drama at the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship at Phoenix Country Club.
They didn’t disappoint.
Stephen Ames and Ernie Els made spirited charges at third-round leader Steven Alker and his four-shot lead entering Sunday. Each shot 6-under 65. But the New Zealand native, from whom Stricker wrested the Cup, birdied No. 9 to get to 18 under then parred Nos. 10 through 18 to beat both by a single stroke. Alker moved to No. 2 on the season-long Charles Schwab Cup standings, finishing behind only Stricker, who won six times in 16 starts. Stricker withdrew from the event on Wednesday, traveling to Wisconsin to be with his dad Bob who was hospitalized last Monday and has since been discharged.
Steven Alker's bunker escape leads to birdie at Charles Schwab
Els could have tied Alker with a birdie on the reachable par-5 18th, but his second shot peeled off by only a couple of yards and rinsed in the pond guarding the right side of the green.
“I had 208 to the front,” said Els, who finished third in the Charles Schwab Cup race behind Stricker and Alker. “I can hit a 5-iron 205 in perfect conditions, so I had to get on it to get to the front. After you hit a cut swinging really hard, you've got to get out of the way quickly and I kind of got out of the way too quickly, kind of hung it out. I hit it solid, but too far right.”
Still, Alker almost backed up and made it a three-way playoff on the final hole. He hit his drive in the fairway and laid up, leaving himself 80 yards to the green. There had been only one bogey on 18 all day. But Alker shockingly hit his third-shot wedge long and right, missing the green.
His chip from the rough was decent enough, though. Alker center-cut a 2-footer for his second win of 2023 and his first since the Insperity Invitational on April 30.
“You know, just trying to get my swing together a little bit, it wasn't quite there today, but the putt was huge (for birdie at No. 9) and just kind of settled me down,” said Alker, who won for the seventh time on PGA TOUR Champions. “I hit a great tee shot on 10 and kind of felt good after that. I made it exciting here at 18, but that wasn't the plan, I tell you.”
Ames capped the season in style after posting a career-best four wins in 2023. His bogey-free final round took him one spot up to sixth in the Charles Schwab Cup race.
“I think overall it obviously is a good season,” Ames said. “Four wins in there, in my books I grade it as a B+ only because I thought it was a bit inconsistent. Last year was a lot more consistent where I had more opportunities to win. This year I didn't have as many, but I still won four, which is nice.
“The whole week itself, the first three days just couldn't get the putter working. Today the putter felt really nice in my hands and I made a lot of good putts coming in, which is nice. I didn't hit the ball quite as well as I did the first three days, but that's kind of golf, how it goes.”