Tuesday, September 08, 2009
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Playoff leader Stricker becoming 'Mr. September'

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[September 08, 2009]  NORTON, Mass. (AP) -- Steve Stricker laughed off the suggestion that he is golf's Mr. September -- the player who's flourished the most in the PGA Tour playoffs.

Then he went out and won the Deutsche Bank Championship -- his second victory and sixth top 10 in 10 FedEx Cup events. No one has more wins, more top 10 finishes, or more rounds in the 60s in the playoffs in the 2 1/2 years since the tour conceived the end of the year points race.

RestaurantNot even Tiger Woods.

"We're taking up space in his world," Stricker said on Monday after shooting a 4-under 67 to win at TPC of Boston and take over the top spot in the FedEx Cup standings. "We all know who the guy is out here. I'm just happy to be in the position I'm at and with the opportunity to do something special for myself. He's done enough other special things, maybe let somebody else do something special."

The tour created the playoff system -- and its $10 million bonus -- in 2007, hoping to copy the cachet of the tournaments that team sports have long used to crown a champion. It may not be as celebrated as winning a major (or even leading the money list), but whatever challenge the points race has posed, Stricker has responded.


He won The Barclays in 2007 and finished second to Woods in the FedEx Cup that year. Last year, when Woods was recovering from a knee injury, Stricker finished 14th. With a second place finish at The Barclays last week and a victory in Boston, Stricker took over first place in this year's standings, 909 points ahead of Woods.

Because the points are reset after the BMW Championship in Chicago, Stricker is assured of being no worse than the No. 2 seed in the season-ending Tour Championship.

"My goal coming into these first three events was just to make sure that I played well and remained in the top five so I could have a chance to win it all," Stricker said. "I think this pretty much does it. But we've still got a lot of golf left to play. ... I've still got to play well."

With a FedEx Cup title, Stricker could even make a case for Player of the Year.

Of course, Woods has a tidy little argument as well.

He's won five times this year, to three for Stricker. Woods has won more than $8 million, to Stricker's $6 million. Woods failed to win a major this year, but Stricker has never won one. And Woods is still No. 1 in the world, though Stricker moved up to No. 2 with his victory on Monday.

But over the first 2 1/2 years of the FedEx Cup, Stricker's playoff performance compares with anyone.

His six top 10 playoff finishes is tied for the most with Camilo Villegas. Stricker is one of three golfers, along with Jim Furyk and Sergio Garcia, who has played in all 40 playoff rounds. And Stricker's 28 playoff rounds in the 60s is the most of anyone.

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"We all know what he's about and how great a player (Woods) is, but this format adds a lot of excitement, you know, for a guy like myself or anybody else to kind of challenge him," Stricker said. "Whoever is going to win this, whether it be him or me or anybody else, I mean, you're going to have to play some pretty good golf for two more events, and it's going to lead to a lot of excitement for the fans, the media and the players alike.

"I think it's a lot of fun."

Stricker had his share of fun at the Deutsche Bank, sharing the lead after one round and again after three, then climbing to the top for good with back-to-back birdies on the last two holes. He finished at 17-under 267 for his seventh career victory -- his first with Woods in the field -- and a $1.35 million check.


For a guy who blew a chance at a playoff at The Barclays last week when he missed a 10-foot par putt on the 18th hole, it was a quick turnaround.

"I don't even remember last week," Stricker said with a laugh before coming clean. "Last week was disappointing. I tried to blow it off and tried to say, 'You know what, I've had a good year, don't worry about it.' But a couple days went by and I was still thinking about it.

"But that's the great thing about what we do for a living. We're able to come right back out here, we have a new week, new tournament to play for, and I was able to forget about that."

[Associated Press; By JIMMY GOLEN]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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