BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A close contest for three days, the Regions Tradition ultimately ended up in just another six-stroke victory for Steve Stricker.
It’s becoming a trend.
Stricker tied the Regions Tradition record with a 23-under 265, including Sunday’s closing 65, and ran away with his second straight championship at the PGA Tour Champions major by six strokes over Ernie Els and Robert Karlsson.
It’s his third win at the Tradition in the last five attempts — all by six shots— and gave the 56-year-old five major wins, sixth-most on the 50-and-over tour. He also has two runner-up finishes in that span on the par-72 Founders Course at Greystone.
“It was a special week here again,” Stricker said. “I don’t know what it is about this place, but it brings out the best in me for some reason. I’ve played some really good golf here and today was no different.
“I got off to a good start, birdieing the first three holes kind of settled my nerves a little bit. I played really nicely all the way around.”
Stricker’s late surge had pulled him into a tie with Karlsson entering the final round, but he pulled away early.
His birdie putt for the outright tournament scoring record was only about a foot off on No. 18. Doug Tewell had set the Tradition record, going 23 under in 2001.
There was still scant drama in Stricker’s 13th victory in 55 tournaments after the first few holes. Stricker extended his birdie streak to seven with three straight to open Sunday and went from a tie to a four-shot lead in just six holes, adding to his Charles Schwab Cup points lead.
“I needed that finish yesterday just to keep touch with the leaders,” Stricker said. “I was thinking if I could get a couple of birdies coming in and I ended up getting four of them. To start off with three today, that was seven in a row, and that kind of put me in a position where it was my tournament to win.
“It’s good in a way, but also hard when you’re trying to win a tournament. You just don’t want to screw up.”
He returned from a 58-minute weather delay with a birdie putt on No. 15 and added another on 16 to set up a drama-free finish.
“After the rain delay when I came out and hit that putt and Robert missed his, that made me feel a lot better,” Stricker said. “It could have gone the other way. I could have missed, he could have made and all of a sudden it looks a lot different. We had some water coming up and then you never know.”
After that, the battle for second was the lone remaining question down the stretch.
Els finished with a bogey-free 65 to rebound from Saturday’s 72.
“I shot myself in the foot yesterday unfortunately, hitting two out of bounds, missing all of those putts,” he said. “Anyways, I fought hard today. I’m playing well, just Steve Stricker is amazing on this golf course. He’s playing amazing golf.”
Karlsson birdied the final hole for a 71 and his fifth PGA Tour Champions runner-up finish, while still seeking his first win.
He also had a pair of second-place finishes in 132 PGA Tour starts, but no wins. A two-time Ryder Cup player, he won the 2008 money title on the European tour after top-eight finishes in the Masters, the U.S. Open and the British Open.
Stricker is the fifth player to win back-to-back Tradition titles, joining Jack Nicklaus (twice), Gil Morgan, Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer.
Jerry Kelly (68) finished 16 under, one stroke ahead of Marco Dawson (68), Miguel Angel Jimenez (68), Paul Broadhurst (70) and Padraig Harrington (71).