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