BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — Steve Stricker pulled away on the back nine Sunday at Fallen Oak to win the Rapiscan Systems Classic for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory.
The 51-year-old Stricker closed with a 4-under 68, birdieing all four par-5 holes on the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big and fast greens. He finished at 11-under 205 for a three-stroke victory over Billy Andrade.
“Anytime you'[re trying to win a golf tournament, it'[s challenging and tough,” Stricker said. “You'[ve got nerves to deal with, and when things don'[t go well you think that you'[re not going to win. You'[ve got to ride that emotional roller coaster and it was no different today. It was good to come down the stretch and hit the shots that I needed to hit down the stretch and finish it off the way I should.”
Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour'[s Valspar Championship, opposite the senior event in California that Vijay Singh won for his first senior title.
“When I start to play well, I'[m fairly consistent,” Stricker said. “I just have been playing well so far this year. I'[ve gotten off to some good starts, played well in a couple PGA Tour events, and then I'[ve had chances to win out here.”
Stricker played the front nine in 1 under, with birdies on the par-5 first and sixth and a bogey on the par-4 fourth. He birdied the par-4 10th, bogeyed the par-4 11th, and put away the tournament with consecutive birdies on the par-4 12th, par-5 13th and par-4 15th.
“It'[s a challenge around here,” Stricker said. “There'[s a few good holes that you really have to avoid disaster. There'[s a couple par 3s that are very difficult. The wind is tricky at times.”
The Wisconsin player has seven top-three finishes in nine career senior starts. In addition to the two victories, he tied for second last month in his first Champions start of the year. In December, he teamed with Sean O'[Hair to win the PGA Tour'[s unofficial QBE Shootout. Stricker has 12 PGA Tour victories and captained the winning U.S. Presidents Cup team last year.
He'[s playing the PGA Tour event in Houston next week, needing a victory to get into the Masters
“It'[s a totally different environment, it'[s different golf, it'[s a bigger course,” Stricker said. “It will be a challenge, but I'[m in the best possible shape I can be mentally-wise. I feel good about my game and I'[m going there with a little bit of confidence.”
Andrade closed with a 69.
“We just need Steve to stay on the regular tour,” Andrade said. “I mean, he doesn'[t need to come out here and ruin my spring. But I finished second here, this is my second time. I love the place and we'[re just so excited that we'[re playing here.”
Gene Sauers (66), Scott Parel (67), Jesper Parnevik (68) and David McKenzie (69) tied for third at 7 under.
Joe Durant, the first-round leader who began the round a stroke behind Stricker, had a 72 to tie for seventh with Billy Mayfair (67) at 6 under.
Bernhard Langer (66) was 5 under.
Sixty-year-old Jeff Sluman, a stroke back entering the round, shot a 74 to drop into a tie for 11th at 4 under. Two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 68 to tie for 33rd at even par.