Stricker Wins Season Opener

Being the veteran he is, Steve Stricker didn't let a five-stroke lead go to waste in the final round of the PGA Tour's season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

The 44-year-old from Wisconsin closed with a 4-under 69 to cruise home with a three-stroke victory - the 12th of his late- blooming career - on the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort in Maui, Hawaii. The win was worth 500 FedEx Cup points and $1.12 million.

After going out in 1-under 35 on the par-73 Coore & Crenshaw-designed course, Stricker steeled himself and guaranteed his eighth victory in the past three years with three more birdies - and no dropped shots - on the inward half to end up well clear of Scotland's Martin Laird, who had a 67.

Stricker's playing partner and the defending champion, Jonathan Byrd, had his chances in the unusual - prescheduled - Monday finish. But after carding seven birdies and a bogey through 16 holes to make things interesting, Byrd bogeyed the par-4 17th to settle for a share of third place with Webb Simpson, who also carded a 5-under 68.

"It was tough," said Stricker, who finished at 23-under 269 and was greeted after a birdie on the 72nd hole with an emotional family hug by his wife, Nicki - his caddie in Stricker's early days on the PGA Tour, and their two young daughters.

"I never let up today," he added. "It's always tough trying to win, and it's even more tough when you have a lead like I did. I'm very proud of what I did today. And it's always cool to get a hug from your family walking off at the end."

Monday's low number - an 8-under 65 - was posted by K.J. Choi. The nine-birdie round moved the tough-minded South Korean into a tie for fifth with Harrison Frazar (68) at 15-under 277.

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