Stricker Captures First KitchenAid Senior PGA
The last two Ryder Cup captains, going head-to-head down the stretch late on Sunday at the new, state-of-the-art home of the PGA of America. Difficult to envision a more perfect script for the inaugural championship being played at Fields Ranch East at PGA Frisco.
Then one of the two captains birdied the 72nd hole to send the event into a playoff.
Padraig Harrington, 2021 European Ryder Cup Captain, entered the final round of the 83rd KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship with a one-shot lead over Steve Stricker, the victorious American Ryder Cup Captain from two years ago. The two men later walked up the par-5 18th fairway with Stricker holding a one-shot lead on one of the biggest risk-reward holes on the golf course.
Harrington used his prodigious length and reached the green in two shots and two-putted for birdie. Stricker missed from 18 feet for birdie to win the championship outright.
Stricker, however, capitalized on a poor drive from Harrington on the first playoff hole and walked away with his first KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, his second major of the year and sixth major overall. He shot 70-67-64-69 for an 18-under-par 270 total and his final-round 69 was his 49th consecutive round of par or better on the PGA Tour Champions.
"It's a battle," said Stricker, whose daughter Izzi caddied for him this week in Texas. "The course showed some teeth at times today. Some difficult pins. Some easy pins. But it was a little crustier I thought on the greens. The wind was tricky at times. Yeah, but it feels great.
"It feels great to do it not only to do it and have Izzi on the bag was even more special. We had a great time this week and that was the goal, right, just to come here and have a good time with her and to throw a win on top of it is even icing on the cake."
Harrington shot 64-68-68-70 and was looking for his fifth senior victory and second senior major. The first-round 64 that Harrington shot and the third-round 64 from Stricker are course records at PGA Frisco.
"You know, right now I'm disappointed," Harrington said. "You always look at final round and you go, if I knew then what I know now. And that's experience."
"Steve is probably the toughest guy you could ever play on a Sunday. He has to have the best wedge game in the world. Like he's a fabulous putter, he's a fabulous chipper, but his wedge play like at the first 14 holes was just spectacular."
Harrington was six shots ahead of Stricker with 27 holes remaining in the championship, but a late double bogey on Saturday, coupled with a string of Stricker birdies got Stricker back into contention. Harrington birdied the first hole out of the gate on Sunday to take a two-shot lead, but Stricker then bounced back and was in the lead after a birdie on 11, his first lead of the week. Two holes later, after a Harrington bogey on 12 and a Stricker chip-in birdie on the 13th hole, Stricker held a two-shot advantage. But Harrington made two birdies on the last five holes – the two traded ugly bogeys on the par-3 17th hole – and there was a playoff.
In the playoff, Harrington said a different wind caught him off guard and his tee shot leaked right and into thick, gnarly grass inside a penalty area. He was only able to slightly advance the ball, then hit 5-wood from 272 yards out to set up a look at par. He missed, and Stricker won.
Stewart Cink, playing in his first senior event, finished in third place, two shots behind Harrington and Stricker. The highlight of his week came Saturday when he made a hole-in-one, but he also made a late charge on Sunday with a birdie on 17 and an eagle on 18, the only eagle on the hole all day and only the fourth all week.
"I had a great time," Cink said. "I love playing with those guys. This has been fun this week. I definitely got my feet wet and I'm looking forward to playing more of these."
Mark Brown and Tim Weinhart tied for Low PGA Professional honors and tied for 55th place at 6 over par. Brown, the PGA Teaching Professional at The Yacht & Country Club in Hobe Sound, Fla., shot 76-71-71-76. Weinhart, Director of Instruction at Heritage Golf Links in Tucker, Ga., shot 73-73-74-74.