Steve Stricker wins in Tucson for first Champions title

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Steve Stricker finally hit the 18th fairway on Omni Tucson National’s Catalina Course. He has his first PGA Tour Champions victory – and a conquistador helmet trophy – to show for it.

”I was glad to finally make par on it and walk away with the helmet,” Stricker said.

Stricker came through Sunday in the Cologuard Classic a year after hitting left into the water on 18 to blow a chance for a victory in his senior debut, and a day after another 3-wood drive rolled into the water in a closing double bogey.

”I was fighting it,” said Stricker, in tears after the victory. ”You have those demons in your head and I was fully aware of what I had to do on 18 as I was playing today. I wanted to get enough of a lead where I could do something different out there. It’s just a tough driving hole for me and it is for everybody. A couple guys in my group hit it in the water today. If you pull it a little bit you run through the fairway, and if you push it a little bit you hit it in the water. It’s a challenging hole and somehow I just guided it out there and got it in the fairway.”

The 12-time PGA Tour winner birdied the par-5 15th and closed with three pars for a 4-under 69, hitting another 3-wood on the par-4 18th. He finished two strokes ahead of fellow Madison, Wisconsin, player Jerry Kelly (65), Gene Sauers (70) and Scott Dunlap (71).

The 51-year-old Stricker finished at 14-under 205 after opening with rounds of 6 and 70.

”I didn’t make a bogey today, which I’m really proud of, and made some really good saves to do that. Just hung in there and finished it off. … It’s a relief, to tell you the truth.”

Stricker won in his eighth start on the 50-and -over tour. He has six top three-finishes, tying for second two weeks ago in Florida in the Chubb Classic. He was second in Tucson behind Tom Lehman last year, losing a two-shot lead on the final three holes.

”It all worked out finally. It’s been a challenge out here. I put a little extra pressure on myself to try to win. I’ve been close, let one get away here last year, so it’s finally really a nice feeling to finally pull one out.”

He was jokingly asked if he planned to wear the shiny conquistador helmet around town when he returns to Madison.

”Geez, I don’t know,” ”Probably not, but I’ll cherish it forever. It means a lot. It’s my first Champions Tour win and it was a battle – and it always is – and it means a lot.”

Bob Estes (69), Olin Browne (69) and Rocco Mediate (72) tied for fifth at 10 under.