Tue, Aug 28, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Stricker holds off Choi to claim victory

IN THE MONEY The American claimed his fourth career PGA Tour win and a first prize of US$1.26 million at the Barclays Classic, the first leg of the FedEx Cup playoff series


Steve Stricker of the US posted his first PGA Tour victory in six years on Sunday, holding off K.J. Choi down the stretch to win The Barclays.

Stricker rolled in three straight birdies on the final three holes en route to a two-under 69 at the Westchester Country Club course.

South Korea's Choi finished two strokes back after firing a one-under 70 to reach 14-under 270. South African Rory Sabbatini was third on 271, closing with a 68.

Stricker, who started the day with a one shot lead, finished his round with five birdies and three bogeys.

He tied the 54-hole record at Westchester with a 14-under 199 before reaching a 16-under 268 final score.

It was his fourth career PGA Tour win and first since capturing the 2001 World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.

"I never knew if I was going to win again," Stricker said in a voice choked with emotion. "This is sweet."

Three-time Barclays winner and defending champion Vijay Singh failed to make the cut.

The Barclays Classic is the first leg of the inaugural FedEx Cup playoff series.

There is plenty of incentive since a US$10 million bonus will be awarded to the points leader of the series played over four straight weeks, ending with the Tour Championship in Atlanta.

Each tournament in the series features a US$7 million purse and a US$1.26 million first prize.

The win put Stricker at the top of the FedEx Cup standings, with a 2,050-point lead over Choi. Sabbatini moved up to third in the playoff race.

World No.1 Tiger Woods, who skipped the first of the four events in the new season-ending playoff series, fell from first to fourth in the points standings, nearly 5,000-points behind Stricker.

Woods will launch his challenge for the FedEx Cup US$10 million bonus -- paid as a deferred annuity to the player with the most points at the end of the series -- at the Deutsche Bank Championship that starts near Boston on Friday.

Stricker said the victory was more important than the playoff points.

"I've worked -- I mean, every player out here wants to do this, wants to win. That's what we are all out here to do," said Stricker, who had already had four good looks at victories this year and failed to take advantage. "You don't get in position that many times, and when you do, it's tough to pull it off."

"So I was just happy that it worked out my way this time at the end, and I pulled one off," he said.

While 144 players started the Barclays, only the top 120 in the FedEx Cup standings will start on Friday. The field will be whittled again for the BMW Championship and again to 30 players for the Tour Championship.

Choi said he would take plenty of positives from the week, and was delighted to improve his position in the playoff race.

"You know, just coming in in second place in the first FedEx Cup playoff tournament is very meaningful for me," he said. "I'm going to take this as a good experience and then, obviously, try to do my best in the next three tournaments."

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