Steven Alker had to get up-and-down for par on the last three holes for a 1-under 70 that allowed him to hang on and win the Charles Schwab Cup Championship on Sunday and a payoff of just over $1 million.
Alker won the Schwab Cup a year ago. This time he did the next best thing.
Steve Stricker clinched the season points list before the postseason began. By winning at Phoenix Country Club, Alker finished second in the Schwab Cup for a $500,000 bonus. The 52-year-old from New Zealand won $528,000 for the tournament, his seventh title on the PGA Tour Champions.
Alker, who started the final round with a four-shot lead, made it a lot harder than he needed.
Els, who opened with five birdies in eight holes to get in the mix, was one shot behind on the par-5 18th when his 5-iron leaked just enough to the right to bounce off the side of the hill and into the water. He had to scramble for a par and a 65.
Ames, a four-time winner this year, birdied the 18th for a 65.
They were still one shot behind Alker, who missed the green on the 16th and 17th and managed to save par. Going to the par-5 closing hole, he chose to lay up from what otherwise would have been a 5-iron. He figured he could make birdie 75% of the time by laying up, and all he needed was a par.
But then his wedge to the 18th went too far and rolled down a slight bank at the back. He chipped that to just inside 3 feet and holed the par putt to finish at 18-under 266.
I made it exciting here on 18, Alker said, but that wasn’t the plan.
Stricker, whose six victories this year included three majors, had to withdraw at the start of the week because his father was hospitalized in Wisconsin. He still claimed the $1 million bonus with a year so dominant he didn’t play a single Schwab Cup playoff event.
Alker won in late April but then didn’t win again until the last tournament of the year.
It’s another win, Alker said. To beat these guys … it’s hard to win out here.
Els finished third in the Schwab Cup and earned a $300,000 bonus, followed by Padraig Harrington in fourth ($200,000) and Bernhard Langer getting $100,000 for finishing fifth.
Stephen Ames wound up No. 6, remarkable considering he had four wins.
I think overall it obviously is a good season, Ames said. Four wins in there, in my books I grade it as a B-plus only because I thought it was a bit inconsistent. Last year was a lot more consistent where I had more opportunities to win. This year I didnt have as many, but I still won four, which is nice.