Golf

Here’s how the Rapiscan Systems Classic was decided Sunday at Fallen Oak

Steve Stricker acknowledges the crowd in the gallery on the 18th green during the Rapiscan Systems Classic at Fallen Oak, Biloxi, MS, Sunday, March 25, 2018.
Steve Stricker acknowledges the crowd in the gallery on the 18th green during the Rapiscan Systems Classic at Fallen Oak, Biloxi, MS, Sunday, March 25, 2018. Special to The Sun Herald

Steve Stricker continues to find life on the PGA Tour Champions to his liking.

The Wisconsin native entered the day with a one-stroke lead and finished with a strong round of 68 Sunday to win his second consecutive event on the tour Sunday afternoon at Fallen Oak.

Stricker ended the three-day event with a total score of 205 at 11-under, three strokes ahead of second-place finisher Billy Andrade.

Andrade and Stricker are good friends and Sunday’s event marked the second time that the two men have finished one, two in a tournament. Stricker won the 1996 Motorola Western Open by eight strokes ahead of Andrade.

Twenty-two years later, Stricker is playing some of the best golf of his career.

“He’s been a great player for a long time,” Andrade. “We’ve been friends a long time. He’s a class guy and he’s a hell of a player.”

Stricker, who won $240,000, lifted the Anthony J. Topazi Trophy Sunday afternoon after it was parachuted in on the 18th fairway by double amputee Dana Bowman, a retired Sergeant First Class with the U.S. Army.

Three weeks ago, Stricker won the Colorguard Classic in Tuscon, Arizona. The week following, he tied for 12th in the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship.

The 51-year-old Stricker is turning into a dominant force on a tour that features competitors 50 years and up. Sunday’s win allowed him to register his seventh top-three finish his last eight Champions events.

“I think that’s my game,” Stricker said of his consistency. “When I start to play well, I’m fairly consistent. I just have been playing well so far this year. I’ve gotten off to some good starts, played well in a couple of PGA Tour events and I’ve had chances to win out here. I got my first win a couple of weeks ago, which helps me here. Anytime you can get yourself in contention and win, it proves to yourself that you can do it. Today was hard, but deep down I knew I could do it. I just did it a couple of weeks ago so that helped me finish it today.”

Stricker maintained a one-stroke lead through the front nine and managed to close out the victory down the stretch.

“I made the turn at 1-under,” he said. “I birdied 10, but bogeyed 11 and the next two key holes, 12 and 13, kind of got me going in the right direction. The other Par-5, 15, I made birdie there too. It was a good back side today.”

Stricker will need to win this week’s Houston Open in Humble, Texas, on the PGA Tour to qualify for the Masters on April 5-8 in Augusta, Georgia.

“It will be a challenge, but I’m in the best possible shape I can be mentally wise,” he said. “I feel good about my game and I’m going in there with a little bit of confidence.”

Poplarville native Glen Day had one of the best days on the course Sunday, putting up a 7-under, 65 to surge into a tie for ninth place with Champions Tour standout Bernhard Langer at 5-under, 211.

Gene Sauers, Scott Parel and Jesper Parnevik all tied for third place at 7-under, 209.

Joe Durant, who led after the first round, and Jeff Sluman entered Sunday in a tie for second-place, but both slid back into the field. Durant finished in a tie for seventh place with a three-day score of 210 and Sluman tied for 11th at 212.

Sunday’s final round ended a two-year run as the tournament champion for Miguel Angel Jimenez. The Spaniard had strong day with a 68 on Sunday, but finished tied for 33rd at 216.

This marked the first year of Rapiscan Systems serving as the title sponsor after it was previously known as the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic. Rapiscan is set to serve as the sponsor for the next two years.

Patrick Magee: 228-896-2333, @Patrick_Magee

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