Steve Stricker’s amazing season just got better. And he didn’t even play this past weekend.
Holding a commanding lead in the season-long points race, Stricker benefited from his nearest competitors underperforming enough to allow him to clinch the Charles Schwab Cup with two events still to be played.
The first of the three events in the 2023 Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs took place in Virginia, with Harrison Frazar winning in a one-hole playoff. Stricker didn’t play, choosing to take the week off. Participation in the playoff events isn’t mandatory and besides, Stricker had such a commanding lead in the points race, there was a scenario whereby he could skip all three playoff stops and still claim the 2023 Charles Schwab Cup.
The PGA Tour Champions post-season had 72 players qualify but only six had a mathematical chance at winning the points race but none of them made a serious run in Stricker’s absence: Ernie Els tied for seventh; Stephen Ames tied for 20th; Steven Alker and Bernhard Langer tied for 25th and David Toms tied for 35th.
Three weeks ago, ahead of the Furyk & Friends event on the Champions tour in Jacksonville, Stricker verbally committed to the Charles Schwab Cup Championship at Phoenix Country Club, Nov. 9-12, saying “I’ll definitely be at the last one.”
The next tournament is Nov. 3-5 at the TimberTech Championship. Stricker has said he “probably won’t” play that one.
The finale in Phoenix is a 72-hole event with only the top 36 in the points eligible. It’s a no-cut event and should Stricker bank at least $14,000, he’ll be the first on the Champions tour to surpass the $4-million mark in a season. He stands at $3,986,063. Alker is next at just more than $2 million.
Stricker’s early clinch is not the first time it’s happened on the PGA Tour Champions. In 2002, Hale Irwin did it after the 32nd of 35 events. In 2014, Bernhard Langer clinched after the second-to-last event of the season.