Fri Aug 6, 2021

Canton Rep: Steve Stricker finishes wire-to-wire win in Bridgestone Senior Players Championship

Stellar play when he needed it most.

That’s what lifted Steve Stricker to the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship on Sunday at Firestone Country Club.

Like a man’s fortunes, golf leads can change with the wind.

Several times in the past two days Stricker had big leads disappear as if the golf gods were against him.

Yet, he survived a brief scare from defending champion and close friend Jerry Kelly on the back nine of the South Course before closing out his third major championship on the PGA Tour Champions with five consecutive pars to shoot a final-round even-par 70 for a 72-hole total of 7-under 273 and a six-shot victory.

It seemed so much closer and it was for portions of the day. While Stricker strung together five consecutive pars to finish, Kelly bogeyed four of the final five.

“It was hard,” said Stricker, whose fortunes changed down the stretch thanks to his solid finish and some unfortunate play by Kelly, who finished second after shooting 2-over 72 for a final 279. “It was a hard day.”

Stricker, who earned $450,000 for the victory, joined Arnold Palmer and Bernhard Langer as the only wire-to-wire winners of this event, which moved to Firestone three years ago.

“You know, I basically played with a lead all the way from the start of the tournament,” said Stricker, who birdied three of the final four holes on the front to extend what had been a four-shot lead at the start to five at the turn. “Had a big lead on Saturday and kind of let that slip away. It’s hard to play with a lead. I’m finding that out.”

It’s even harder when you are playing against your friend.

“I know he wants to beat me and I feel the same,” said Stricker, who will serve as the Ryder Cup captain in September. “But, we’re still friends and that’s the nice thing about it. And I said that to him walking up 18. I said it was fun but I don’t like it.”

Undoubtedly, the journeys by Palmer and Langer were less stressful than Stricker’s, who for the second day in a row was nearly done in by the back nine on the South Course.