A year after he blew himself out of the water at his Champions Tour debut in the Cologuard Classic, Steve Stricker was able to walk away on Sunday as the 2018 winner and latest owner of the Classic's conquistador helmet trophy.
"I was glad to finally make par on 18 and walk away with the helmet," Stricker said ruefully, remembering how he had hit left of the fairway and into the water on the final hole of the Omni Tucson National's Catalina Course last year - and this just a day after making a costly double bogey by doing the same thing with the very same No 3 fairway wood.
"I was fighting it," said Stricker, in tears after the victory. "You have those demons in your head and I was fully aware of what I had to do on 18 today. I wanted to get enough of a lead where I could do something different out there.
"It's just as tough a driving hole for me as it is for everybody. A couple guys in my group hit it in the water today. If you pull it a little bit you run through the fairway, and if you push it a little bit you hit it in the water. It's a challenging hole and somehow I just guided it out there (again with a three wood) and kept it on the fairway."
Stricker, a 12-time PGA Tour winner, birdied the par-5 15th and closed with three pars on his way to his 4-under 69 and 14-under closing three-round total of 205 that saw him defeat by two strokes his Madison, Wisconsin, compatriot Jerry Kelly (65), Gene Sauers (70) and Scott Dunlap (71).
"I didn't make a bogey today, which I'm really proud of, and I made some really good saves to do that. Just hung in there and finished it off. ... It's a relief, to tell you the truth."
Stricker's victory on Sunday came in his eighth start in over-50s golf. Six of those have earned him top three-finishes, including a tie for second in the Chub Classic two weeks ago.
And last year, in this same event in Tucson, he was second behind Tom Lehman after his watery finish
"It all worked out, finally. It's been a challenge out here. I put a little extra pressure on myself to try to win. I've been close - I let one get away here last year - so it's finally a really nice feeling to pull one off."
Would he wear the conquistador helmet around town in celebration when he returns home to Madison?
"Geez, I don't know," "Probably not, but I'll cherish it forever. It means such a lot. It's my first PGA TOUR Champions victory - and it came after a battle.
"It's been a long time (since his last win). I cry every time."
(Par 73 - the USA unless stated)
205 Steve Stricker 66 70 69
207 Jerry Kelly 70 72 65, Gene Sauers 67 70 70, Scott Dunlap 65 71 71
209 Bob Estes 71 69 69, Olin Browne 70 70 69, Rocco Mediate 72 65 72, Doug Garwood 69 68 72
210 Billy Andrade 70 69 71, Jeff Maggert 69 70 71, Woody Austin 68 70 72, Tommy Tolles 65 70 75
211 Esteban Toledo (MEX) 71 72 68, Billy Mayfair 68 72 71, Todd Hamilton 72 68 71, Michael Bradley 69 70 72, Kirk Triplett 69 69 73, Kent Jones 71 73 68
212 Wes Short, Jr 70 74 68, Tom Byrum 75 67 70, Paul Broadhurst (ENG) 69 73 70, Joe Durant 69 72 71, Scott Parel 76 69 67
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