STRICKER A CHAMPION IN TINSEL TOWN

8 02 2010

John Deere Classic defending champion Steve Stricker will move to No. 2 in the world when the Official World Golf Rankings come out Monday.

Stricker, who won the Northern Trust Open outside L.A. Sunday with a 16-under par total, overcame a shaky front nine at Riviera Country Club to win by two strokes over resurgent Englishman Luke Donald.

As was the case when he won the John Deere last July, Stricker, now 42, shed tears of joy during his post-round media interview. His humility was on display as the man from Wisconsin talked with NBC’s Roger Maltbie after the last putt dropped.

“I work hard at this, and when it finally — you pour everything into it for 72 holes, and there’s a lot of emotions through the course of the round, and I typically don’t show any emotion,” Stricker later explained to media scribes. “So I think it’s just the ending of it all and finally coming out on top that I lose it.”

Though officially No. 2 in the world, Stricker now is de facto No. 1 among active players since current No. 1 Tiger Woods is on his self-imposed break from golf. Stricker displaced previous No. 2 Phil Mickelson, who finished T-45 at 2-under par following a final round 73.

Stricker finished the tourney at 268 on rounds of 67-65-66-70. He started the final round with a 6-shot lead, which quickly lead shrunk to two as Donald birdied three of the first five holes and Stricker bogeyed No. 4. But Stricker righted his ship with birdies on Nos. 8 and 9 and played solidly on the back nine to bring home the victory, which was worth $1.152 million in official earnings.

Sunday’s outcome was Stricker’s third top 10 finish in three events this year. He was T-10 at the season opening SBS Championship and third at the Sony Open, both in Hawaii.

Stricker won three times last year at Colonial, the John Deere, and the Deutsche Bank.

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