Stricker gets a tough bat­tle, but hangs on to win and move to No. 2

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON

eighth ca­reer victory, and the eighth time he couldn’t make it through his TV in­ter­view without wip­ing tears from his eyes.

This time, all it took was a re­minder of where he was four years ago, when he lost his PGA Tour card.

The fi­nal round felt as though it lasted just as long.

His lead was cut in half af­ter four holes af­ter Stricker missed a short par putt. It was down to two shots when Don­ald made a 10foot birdie on the fifth hole. It might have van­ished en­tirely had Don­ald not missed birdie putts about the same length on the next two holes.

“If I got re­ally hot with the put­ter, I could have maybe caught Steve,” said Don­ald, who closed with a 66. “He played nicely com­ing down the stretch, and I think he was a de­served win­ner. But at least I gave him a lit­tle run for his money.”

Stricker fin­ished at 16-un­der 268 and earned US$1.152 mil­lion to go over $25 mil­lion for his ca­reer.

Dustin John­son, who shot a 74 on Satur­day to fall out of the lead, made one last run and got within three shots. He shot a 66 and tied for third with J.B. Holmes, who closed with a 67.

Stricker built his lead back to four shots on the back nine when he started play­ing cau­tiously and saw it start slip­ping away. Then came the 15th, when he missed his 4iron to the left and chipped poorly to 10 feet, only to make his big­gest putt of the round.

“My fa­ther-in-law al­ways says there’s a defin­ing mo­ment when you’re go­ing to win a golf tour­na­ment,” Stricker said. “And I think that was it right there. It al­lowed me to keep a three-shot lead go­ing into the last three holes.”

Phil Mick­el­son, try­ing to be­come the first player to win three straight years at Riviera, had a 73 and fin­ished 14 shots be­hind.

Even as he left the course Satur­day night lead­ing by five shots, Stricker said he ex­pected a long, tough day.

The long day came from hav­ing to re­turn in the morn­ing dark­ness to fin­ish off his third round. With tem­per­a­tures in the 40s be­fore the sun climbed over Sun­set Boule­vard, he rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt on the 15th, hit 7-iron to four feet for birdie on the 16th and led by seven shots un­til a bo­gey on the 18th, his first in 32 holes. Stricker com­pleted a 66 for a six-shot lead. DAY­TONA BEACH, Fla. — There was a tan­gi­ble sense of elec­tric­ity sur­round­ing the first event of Speed­weeks, a race every­one ex­pected to be so rough-and-tum­ble that NASCAR’s re­laxed rules to­ward ag­gres­sive driv­ing would most cer­tainly be tested.

In­stead, Satur­day night’s ex­hi­bi­tion Bud­weiser Shootout felt more like a cease fire.

The bump­ing and bang­ing that’s be­come the trade­mark of Day­tona and Tal­ladega wasn’t too in­tense un­til the clos­ing laps. The slic­ing and dic­ing of driv­ers weav­ing through the field seemed min­i­mal.

And the op­por­tu­nity to daz­zle fans with a spec­tac­u­lar Day­tona 500 preview was lost.

“It wasn’t nearly as crazy as I thought it would be,” said fifth-place fin­isher Denny Ham­lin. “ You would’ve liked to have seen a lit­tle bit more ex­cite­ment.”

That’s be­cause NASCAR all but promised as much by lift­ing the re­stric­tions on bump-draft­ing and giv­ing driv­ers the “Boys, have at it” to mix it up more on the race track. Se­ries of­fi­cials had pro­gres­sively squeezed out bump-draft­ing — the prac­tice of one car shov­ing the car in front of it to push each other through the field at Day­tona and Tal­ladega — but de­cided to let the driv­ers po­lice them­selves af­ter com­plaints of ster­il­ized racing at NASCAR’s fastest two tracks.

So it seemed log­i­cal that the no-points Shootout would be the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to see just what NASCAR would al­low.

Af­ter all, the driv­ers seemed fairly feisty in the first prac­tice of Speed­weeks, when con­tact be­tween Ham­lin and Mark Martin trig­gered a seven-car ac­ci­dent that ru­ined sev­eral race cars. The sec­ond prac­tice wasn’t clean, ei­ther, as bump­ing be­tween Juan Pablo Mon­toya and Kurt Busch led to the first of Busch’s two week­end wrecks.

But come ac­tual race time, it all felt fairly calm.

There were a few in-race in­ci­dents, in­clud­ing Busch’s wild slide through the grass and sub­se­quent hard hit into the out­side wall, but the breath­tak­ing passes and all-out ag­gres­sion seemed fairly lim­ited. A late cau­tion setup a two-lap sprint to the fin­ish, but Jeff Gor­don’s bump-draft­ing of Greg Bif­fle started an eight-car ac­ci­dent with one lap re­main­ing to draw a race-end­ing cau­tion.

Al­though NASCAR waited a bit longer than usual to wave the yel­low flag — in a pre­sumed at­tempt to give driv­ers an at­tempt to race to the fin­ish line — the wreck­age was too se­vere and win­ner Kevin Har­vick crossed the fin­ish line un­der cau­tion. So what went wrong? Noth­ing, if you ask the driv­ers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.