DUBLIN, June 6, 2011 (AFP) - Steve Stricker fired a four-under par 68 to win the $6.2 million US PGA Memorial tournament Sunday, advancing to fourth in the world rankings to become the top-rated American for the first time.
Stricker, a 44-year-old two-time US PGA Comeback Player of the Year who has won seven of titles since turning 40, struggled over the final holes after a long rain delay, stumbling with a bogey at the finish to win by one shot.
"It wasn't pretty," Stricker said. "I hit a couple great putts when I had to. It was a little bit of a struggle once we came out after the rain delay. At that point I'm just trying not to make a mistake."
Stricker captured a $1.116 million top prize and his 10th US PGA crown, his first since defending a title at last July's John Deere Classic, with a 72-hole total of 16-under par 272 at the event hosted by legend Jack Nicklaus.
"It's a special win," Stricker said. "It's truly an honor."
Americans Brandt Jobe and Matt Kuchar each fired final-round 65s to share second on 273, three strokes ahead of fourth-place countryman Dustin Johnson with Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy in fifth on 277 after a closing 68.
The event was, for many players, the last tune-up event before the US Open, which begins on June 16 at Congressional Country Club near Washington.
"I'm excited. I'm playing better and better," Kuchar said. "I'm real excited about Congressional coming up."
Stricker won his first career title at the 1996 Kemper Open, played across the street from Congressional, where he will be among a host of favorites in the second major championship of the year.
Despite a bogey at the par-5 15th, Stricker led by two strokes with two holes remaining. He found a greenside bunker at the par-4 17th but chipped out and sank a seven-foot par putt to keep his margin intact on the 18th tee.
Needing only a bogey to win the title, Stricker put his tee shot in a fairway bunker 187 yards from the green and sent his approach into greenside rough before chipping to 15 feet. He missed the par putt but tapped in for victory.
Stricker, who led by three strokes after 54 holes, opened his final round with a pair of birdies, added another at the par-5 fifth and finished the front nine with three birdies in a row.
Jobe made seven birdies in eight holes starting at the par-3 fourth to leap into the hunt while Kuchar birdied five of six holes starting at the third and hit another at the par-5 11th to match Jobe three back of Stricker.
Stricker put his tee shot into a bunker at the par-3 12th but chipped out inches from the cup and made par just before a storm arrived and halted play with only 14 golfers still on the course.
"We had such a nice rhythm going, Matt and I exchanging birdies," Jobe said. "Then to have to stop, go back out and reset, it was tough out there.
When play resumed, Stricker missed a 10-foot birdie putt at 14 and settled for par, then found the trees and took a bogey at the par-5 15th. When Jobe also took a bogey at 15, Kuchar was suddenly only two strokes off the lead.
Stricker found a bunker off the tee at the par-3 16th and faced a 16-foot par putt. But Stricker answered by sinking his longest putt of the back nine to hold his two-stroke edge on Kuchar.
"I was glad to give it a real try and try to squeeze Stricker a little bit," Kuchar said.
Jobe birdied the 18th and Kuchar made par as each finished off a final-round 65 to stand two strokes back of Stricker with two holes remaining.
"I hit some good shots when I needed to," Jobe said. "Overall I'm very happy. You just have to keep going and put myself in position."
Scores on Sunday after the final round of the $6.2 million US PGA Memorial tournament (USA unless noted):
272 - Steve Stricker 68-67-69-68
273 - Brandt Jobe 71-68-69-65, Matt Kuchar 69-71-68-65
276 - Dustin Johnson 68-73-70-65
277 - Rory McIlroy (NIR) 66-72-71-68
278 - Gary Woodland 72-69-69-68
280 - Kevin Streelman 74-68-72-66, Luke Donald (ENG) 70-69-73-68, John Senden (AUS) 71-70-71-68, Webb Simpson 72-70-70-68, Mark Wilson 70-73-66-71, Jonathan Byrd 71-67-69-73
281 - Phil Mickelson 72-70-72-67, Ben Curtis 70-75-69-67, Brett Wetterich 70-71-70-70, Bo Van Pelt 72-70-72-67, Hunter Mahan 69-72-69-71
282 - Brian Davis (ENG) 73-71-70-68, Ricky Barnes 68-70-74-70
284 - KJ Choi (KOR) 70-73-73-68, Charl Schwartzel (RSA) 72-71-70-71, Angel Cabrera (ARG) 70-73-71-70
285 - Camilo Villegas (COL) 73-69-71-72
286 - Vijay Singh (FIJ) 73-72-76-65
288 - Ryuji Imada (JPN) 71-70-77-70, Aaron Baddeley (AUS) 71-68-75-74
289 - Arjun Atwal (IND) 73-71-74-71, Nick O'Hern (AUS) 73-72-70-74, Rod Pampling (AUS) 72-66-72-79
290 - Ernie Els (RSA) 71-73-75-71
291 - Marc Leishman (AUS) 73-71-66-81
292 - Charlie Wi (KOR) 73-72-73-74, Brendon de Jonge (ZIM) 71-73-73-75, Eduardo Molinari (ITA) 72-69-76-75, Robert Karlsson (SWE) 74-71-76-71
297 - Alex Cejka (GER) 71-72-74-80