Stricker’s misfortune is Els’ stunning gain at American Family Insurance Championship

golf10 June 2024 05:50

Ernie Els made it back-to-back wins on the Champions Tour when Steve Stricker missed a three-foot putt on the first playoff hole at the American Family Insurance Championship in Madison, Wisconsin, on Sunday.

It was meant to be Stricker’s party, for sure, played in front of robust and cheerful Wisconsin galleries in Stricker’s adopted hometown of Madison.

But it was Els, the big South African, a four-time major champion and World Golf Hall of Famer, who made away with the title, his second in as many weeks.

Els, 54, was delighted to win again, but his initial cold-bucket splash of emotions was no different than any other person who had witnessed the final scene.

“What can I say?” Els told Golf Channel’s John Cook just off the edge of the 18th green, the title now his. “I’m just shocked right now. I really feel for Steve. What a great guy.”

Els won for the fifth time as a member of PGA Tour Champions, adding to the championship he captured in Des Moines (Principal Charity Classic) one week earlier.

Stricker, the host who won the American Family Insurance Championship in 2023 and was well down the road to defending, was playing the event for the eighth time; he never had finished worse than T11. He also lost in a playoff in 2019, when fellow Madison resident and longtime pal Jerry Kelly won.

“He feels bad winning like that, and I feel bad giving it to him like that, but he played well,” said Stricker, who goes back 30 years with Els. “He strung together, I think, three birdies on that backside when he had to and he kind of answered the call when he had to, because I had a three- or four-shot lead and kind of just let it slip away.”

Els and Stricker began the day tied for the lead, and each shot 3-under 69 on Sunday, getting to 12-under 276 for the Tournament. Australia’s Cameron Percy closed with 67 to finish alone in third, three back, his best showing on PGA Tour Champions.

Stephen Ames (67), who overtook Steven Alker for the lead in the season-long Charles Schwab Cup standings, tied for fourth at 280 along with Doug Barron (66) and Thomas Bjørn (69).

Read the FULL STORY on the PGA Tour Champions site...