Stricker shines brightest in Boston

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Steve Stricker has birdied the last two holes to clinch a dramatic victory in the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston.

In what was clearly the biggest victory of his career, Steve Stricker birdied the last two holes to claim a dramatic victory in the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston on Monday.

Stricker has never won before with Tiger Woods in the field, but on top of that, this, his third victory this season, has moved him to a career high Number Two in the World Rankings and enabled him to leap over Woods into first place on the FedEx Cup standings in the second leg the four-tournament play-off series.

Stricker had to choke back tears of emotion after birdies at the last two holes had enabled him to break through the log-jam of final day contenders and ultimately edge one shot clear with his closing 4-under 67 of the last two men still standing on top of the leaderboard, fellow Americans Jason Dufner and Scott Verplank .

But Stricker was adamant that what gave him the greatest pleasure on a Labour Day holiday he’ll never forget was the way in which he won.

“Knowing I had to make a couple of birdies and actually doing it means a heck of lot,” he said.

After nine-hole leader Padraig Harrington, Retief Goosen, Dustin Johnstone and earlier-round leaders Jim Furyk and Sean O’Hair had all fallen by the wayside, Dufner and Verplank were the two set for extra holes in a possible play-off after shooting rounds of 65 and 67 respectively to sign for a 16-under 268 over four rounds.

But then Stricker took over.

He knocked in a 15-foot birdie on the 17th, helped by getting a good read on the tricky putt from Retief Goosen. Then, he split the middle of the 18th fairway and hit a hybrid just over the green. He hit a delicate chip to tap-in range for the win.

“It was a tough day. There was a lot of guys in the mix and I just found a way to get it done. It’s been a blast, and I want to keep riding it out,” Stricker said

Earlier Dufner, a Q-school graduate last year, two-putted from 40 feet for birdie and a 65 to become the first player to post at 16-under and Verplank brilliantly birdied his last four holes to join him after his eagle putt from the fringe grazed the edge of the cup but stayed out to leave him with a 67 and high hopes of a playoff.

“I knew that Strick would be tough to catch today,” Verplank said. “He’s not Tiger, but you know what? He may be the second-best player, at least on this tour. The guy is really playing good. So I knew he was going to be tough to catch. And it turns out he was.”

Harrington recovered from two poor drives that cost him three penalty strokes and had a chance to join Dufner and Verplank until he narrowly missed a 10-foot eagle putt. He shot 68 and tied for fourth with Masters champion Angel Cabrera, who missed the 18th fairway and made par for a 65; and Dustin Johnson, who failed to get up-and-down from behind the 18th green and shot 66.

It was the fourth time in five weeks that Harrington, without a win since his PGA Championship last year, had a chance in the final round.

The Irish icon lead by a shot heading for the back nine, but inexplicably hooked his tee shot into a hazard on the 10th, and next lost his ball and had to trek back to the tee-box after hooking another drive on the 12th.

“I’m disappointed with today because it was in my control,” said Harrington. “I was leading the tournament, and going into the back nine it was mine to lose. And I lost it. I’ll feel this one a lot more than some of the others.”

Woods was another who’ll have some regrets.

He shot a magnificent best-of-the day 63, but an awful third round one-over 72 meant he was too far behind to make up the deficit

“Certainly, from where I was at, I couldn’t win the tournament, even if I shot 60 or something like that,” Woods said.

The only question facing the Tiger on Monday, in fact, was whether he could shoot his first 59, but that fell away with a par on the 16th and when he bogeyed the next hole he had to settle instead for his best score of the year.

He finished in a tie for 11th, five shots behind, but that 63 is a warning of what still could come.

ALL THE FINAL ROUND SCORES
(USA unless stated, par 71):

267 Steve Stricker 63 72 65 67
268 Jason Dufner 66 69 68 65, Scott Verplank 65 68 68 67
269 Dustin Johnson 68 65 70 66, Angel Cabrera (Arg) 65 69 70 65, Padraig Harrington (Irl) 67 67 67 68
270 Geoff Ogilvy (Aus) 66 68 70 66
271 Retief Goosen (Rsa) 65 67 68 71, Sean O’Hair 66 64 70 71, Jim Furyk 63 67 73 68
272 Kevin Na 69 66 66 71, Jerry Kelly 66 69 67 70, Tiger Woods 70 67 72 63, John Senden (Aus) 69 64 70 69
273 Bill Haas 69 66 72 66, Marc Leishman (Aus) 70 62 72 69, Kevin Sutherland 68 65 69 71, Matt Kuchar 65 71 68 69
274 Charlie Wi (Kor) 71 64 72 67, Justin Leonard 65 68 72 69, Zach Johnson 68 71 67 68, Jason Day (Aus) 68 66 72 68
275 Jeff Overton 69 66 70 70, Mike Weir (Can) 68 65 72 70, Stephen Ames (Can) 67 73 69 66
276 Sergio Garcia (Spa) 70 71 68 67
277 Phil Mickelson 71 68 72 66, Charley Hoffman 69 69 70 69, Steve Marino 70 68 71 68, Pat Perez 70 65 75 67, Mark Wilson 70 69 66 72
278 Bubba Watson 68 71 71 68, Brandt Snedeker 70 70 71 67, Jason Bohn 73 67 69 69, Kevin Streelman 70 68 71 69
279 Scott McCarron 70 70 69 70, Lucas Glover 69 68 72 70, David Toms 67 69 73 70, Greg Chalmers (Aus) 67 70 74 68, Woody Austin 67 70 74 68, Scott Piercy 67 69 74 69, Hunter Mahan 73 66 69 71, Anthony Kim 71 70 67 71, Bryce Molder 67 69 72 71, Troy Matteson 66 71 72 70
280 Kenny Perry 69 72 69 70, Nick Watney 71 69 71 69, Mathew Goggin (Aus) 71 69 69 71
281 Michael Letzig 68 68 73 72, Brian Davis (Eng) 67 70 73 71, D.A. Points 69 70 73 69, Bob Estes 70 71 71 69, Davis Love III 69 70 71 71
282 Vijay Singh (Fij) 67 72 70 73, Justin Rose (Eng) 69 70 77 66, Brian Gay 70 67 73 72, Boo Weekley 68 69 74 71, Luke Donald (Eng) 69 72 72 69, Charles Howell III 68 69 71 74
283 Daniel Chopra (Swe) 67 71 73 72
284 J J Henry 72 68 74 70, Brett Quigley 70 69 71 74, Camilo Villegas (Col) 70 69 71 74, Greg Owen (Eng) 69 69 73 73, Jonathan Byrd 67 74 71 72, Briny Baird 73 67 74 70
285 Y.E. Yang (Kor) 71 70 69 75
287 J.B. Holmes 72 67 71 77
288 Ben Crane 73 68 78 69, Fredrik Jacobson (Swe) 70 68 77 73, D.J. Trahan 71 70 76 71
289 Richard S Johnson (Swe) 68 72 75 74
296 Ryuji Imada (Jpn) 74 66 75 81

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