The inaugural championship played at the new PGA of America headquarters in Frisco, Texas, was at a minimum a dramatic success, a duel between opposing Ryder Cup captains that ultimately reinforced the fact that these days Stricker owns the PGA Tour Champions.
Stricker, 56, won the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship by defeating Padraig Harrington with a par on the first playoff hole at Fields Ranch East at PGA Frisco, his second straight major championship victory and third win in nine senior starts this season. A bonus was that he won with his daughter Izzi, 17, caddieing for him for the first time, as a birthday present.
“It was a battle,” Stricker said. “The course showed some teeth at times today. Some difficult pins. Some easy pins. But it was a little crustier on the greens. The wind was tricky at times. Yeah, but it feels great. It feels great not only to do it, [but to] have Izzi on the bag was even more special. We had a great time this week and that was the goal, 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, who captained the European Ryder Cup team in a loss to Stricker’s American team at Whistling Straits in 2021, was attempting to win the Senior PGA wire-to-wire and took a one-stroke lead into the final round. He surrendered his lead to Stricker on the 11th hole, but pulled even with a birdie at the par-5 18th hole to send it to overtime.
On the playoff hole, Harrington sliced his drive into a penalty area, attempted to slash his ball out with his second shot and left in the penalty area, took a drop, then hit a 5-wood fourth shot from 249 metres to within 12 feet of the hole. Stricker, meanwhile, played a 3-wood off the tee, a lay-up second shot, a poor wedge to the green and took two putts for par.
Moments later, Harrington missed his par putt, allowing Stricker to win his 14th senior event, six of them majors. His final round of three-under 69 gave him a 72-hole score of 18-under 270, while Harrington closed with a two-under 70.
“I’ll be disappointed with the tee shot and the second shot,” Harrington said of the playoff hole. “But if I hole the [par] putt we could say [my 5-wood fourth] was one of the best shots I ever hit. The fact that I didn’t hole the putt, we’ll forget about it. Golf is cruel.”
It certainly can be, and Stricker was prepared to endure his own share of cruelty.
“He [Harrington] had a legitimate look at it. And it was kind of the same putt that Stewart Cink had in regulation that he made for eagle,” Stricker said. “So, yeah, I told Izzi, I’m like, ‘Well, we got to expect him to make this and we’re going to go again.’ But, yeah, tough putt, just trying to die it down there and luckily we came out on top.”