BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Steve Stricker fared well in the last Regions Tradition, rain and all.
Stricker has returned to the Greystone Golf & Country Club impressed with how the course has held up through the latest rain heading into the first of five PGA Tour Champions majors. The Ryder Cup captain will try to defend his 2019 title in the 72-hole tournament starting Thursday.
“This course is in great shape,” he said after Wednesday’s pro-am round. “Surprisingly, it wasn’t that wet out there. It drains great. The greens were in great shape.
“So you’ve got to kind of prepare yourself that someone’s going to go low and you’ve got to be ready to do the same.”
Two years ago, Stricker pulled away with a closing 4-under 68, turning a two-stroke lead into a six-shot victory in a rain-delayed tournament that finished up on Monday. The Ryder Cup captain won his second PGA Tour Champions major some six weeks later at the U.S. Senior Open, and won the Chubb Classic in April.
That 2019 win was a milestone of sorts for Stricker, who has 12 PGA Tour victories but had never won a major, finishing second at the 1998 PGA Championship to Vijay Singh. He has six wins already on the 50-and-over circuit.
The Regions Tradition was canceled last year because of the pandemic.
World Golf Hall of Famer Ernie Els will make his debut in the Tradition.
Els wasn’t sure the pro-am would be able to go on after Tuesday’s rain. Like Stricker, the South African was pleased with how the course held up.
“The greens are running beautifully,” said Els, who won twice last year, his first on the PGA Tour Champions. “So I think we’re in for a good week. It’s still going to be very soft. We’re probably going to have the ball in hand probably the first maybe two rounds and then see how it goes. Really happy to see the course being playable.”
A two-time winner of the U.S. Open and the British Open, Els was also happy to see fans out on the course. It didn’t hurt that he was paired Wednesday with Alabama coach Nick Saban, who has won a record seven national championships.
Els has attended a game between the Crimson Tide and rival Auburn, where his nephew attended.
Mike Weir is coming off his first win on the 50-and-over circuit, thanks in part to John Daly’s costly mistake on the final hole in Houston. Daly, who is also in the field in Birmingham, hit it into the water on No. 18 when tied for the lead and ended up with a double bogey.
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