Barclays golf tourney won by Stricker | NevadaAppeal.com

Barclays golf tourney won by Stricker

DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer

HARRISON, N.Y. – What looked like more heartache for Steve Stricker turned into the sweetest victory of his career.

After going 61Ú2 years and 146 tournaments without winning, Stricker birdied four of his last five holes Sunday at The Barclays for a stunning turnaround that gave him a 2-under 69 and a two-shot victory over K.J. Choi.

“It was hard, but it was fun,” Stricker said, his voice choking as tears streamed down the side of his face. “I never knew if I was going to win again.”

It sure wasn’t easy, not with 10 players separated by three shots – five of them major champions. And not with Choi holing two birdie putts that were a combined 95 feet, making it look as if he were destined to win.

Stricker, who already let four chances of winning slip away this year, refused to buckle.

And when his final birdie from 8 feet dropped into the cup, he raised his arms and hugged his caddie, Tom Matthews, who first caddied for Stricker when he won the 2001 Match Play Championship in Australia.

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Even without Tiger Woods, the inaugural PGA Tour Playoffs got off to a rousing start.

Along with the fourth victory of his career, Stricker moved to the top of the FedEx Cup standings with 2,050-point lead over Choi, who closed with a 70.

Rory Sabbatini, who had a share of the lead at the turn, closed with a 68 to finish another stroke back and moved up to No. 3 in the playoff race.

Woods skipped the first of four playoff events and tumbled to No. 4, nearly 5,000 points behind Stricker.

LPGA

PORTLAND, Ore. – Lorena Ochoa won her third straight LPGA title with a five-stroke victory in the Safeway Classic on Sunday.

Ochoa shot a 71 in the final round for a 12-under 204 at Columbia Edgewater Country Club for her sixth victory of the season.

In-Bee Park (64), Christina Kim (69), Sophie Gustafson (75) and Mhairi McKay (72) all finished at 7-under 209.

The top-ranked Ochoa, from Mexico, won the Canadian Women’s Open in Edmonton, Alberta, the previous week. Before that, she won the Women’s British Open for her first major title.

“It’s hard to describe how I’m feeling today,” she said. “It was a great week and a great day.”

Ochoa, playing with Gustafson and McKay, was followed by a sizable gallery, including a sponsor’s group of some 150 fans from Guadalajara. Many waved the Mexican flag.The large crowd following Ochoa and her sizable lead prompted tournament officials to let fans watch from the fairway when Ochoa was on the 18th green.

The last player to win three straight tournaments was Annika Sorenstam in 2005. Sorenstam won four straight in 2001, matching the LPGA record.

Ochoa dedicated the title to her mother, whose birthday was Sunday. Ochoa planned to take a month off to spend time with her family.”This tournament is for her. I can’t wait to see her,” she said.

Gustafson, from Sweden, has not won on the LPGA Tour since 2003. Her best finish this season was a tie for fifth at the Safeway International. McKay has not won on the tour.The best round of the final day was 64, shot by rookie In-Bee Park of South Korea.

Ochoa’s day didn’t start well, with a pair of bogeys on the first three holes. But then she settled.

She played mostly at par on the back nine, missing a couple of opportunities to widen the margin. After a 7-foot birdie putt lipped out on the par-5 12th hole, Ochoa flipped her putter in disappointment.

But Gustafson, who started the day a shot back of Ochoa and stayed close through the front nine, had trouble on the back and double bogeyed the par-4 17th hole. McKay, from Scotland, also double-bogeyed the 17th. Ochoa bogeyed it.

Gustafson, from Sweden, has not won on the LPGA Tour since 2003. Her best finish this season was a tie for fifth at the Safeway International. McKay has not won on the tour.

The best round of the final day was 64, shot by rookie In-Bee Park of South Korea. She started the day at 1-over.

Park made five straight birdies during one stretch, playing behind Ochoa’s group after starting from the back nine.

“I really didn’t feel like I was making five in a row, because we had to wait for every shot,” she said, adding: “I think it helped me because I definitely played well today.”