Nice guys do finish first occasionally, or even often, if you’re counting Steve Stricker who captured his third title in as many years at the John Deere Classic.
Thanks to Twitter, I was able to follow the action live. This morning once I got the internet up and running again in ancient Sandwich (random aside: I’m obsessed with the house I’m staying in for most of the week), I’ve been watching the replay of Stricker’s incredible approach from the bunker — the “shot of the year,” according to David Feherty — followed by the 25-footer he drained from off the green.
I love Stricker’s reaction to both the shot and the putt, especially when he gives the fans high-fives and fist-bumps as he walks toward the green.
“It’s probably a one-in-10 shot or a two-in-10 shot of hitting that, but it came off,” Stricker said about his approach shot from an awkward stance on the lip of a fairway bunker.
“And then to make the putt, I don’t know what to say about that.”
After opening with rounds of 66, 64 and 63, Stricker closed with a 69 on Sunday to beat rookie Kyle Stanley by a stroke and become the 10th PGA Tour player since World War II to win the same event three straight times.
Also the winner early last month in the Memorial, the 44-year-old Stricker overcame a double bogey on No. 5, when he needed two shots to get out of a greenside bunker, and bogeys on 15 and 16. He finished at 22-under 262 and earned $810,000 for his 11th PGA Tour title and seventh in the last three seasons.
More from Stricker on what he was thinking while standing over the putt via the transcripts:
I was thinking about making it. I really was. I was thinking about making it, you know, and I hadn’t — you know, the putt at 17 was a real good putt, so I got some confidence from that.
And I felt good about the read, you know, on the back of the green, and I had a little bit of fringe to go through, but it wasn’t that bad. The grain of the fringe was kind of going with me, so I knew it wasn’t really going to throw it one way or the other.
But I was trying to make it. Yeah, for sure I was trying to make it, and you don’t expect that to go in, but I’m sure glad it did.
With the victory, Stricker joins the elite group of Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Ben Hogan and Johnny Miller, who have won the same tournament three years in a row.
“I kept telling myself that it’s not a big deal and it really wasn’t—until today,” Stricker said. “That back nine trying to win, it’s just really hard. I don’t know any other way to say it. It’s extremely hard to put it away. When you watch guys like Tiger put away all those tournaments, anybody who’s put it away down the stretch, it’s a difficult thing to do. But I’m happy to come out on top.”
Congrats, Steve! Now get some rest before the Open.