Clarke 2nd in encouraging start as Stricker blows away field to win

Ronan MacNamara
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Darren Clarke at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Darren Clarke had to settle for a share of second place as Steve Stricker cruised to a six-shot win at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai.

Clarke strung together a four-under 68 for a seventeen-under total but it wasn’t enough to put pressure on Stricker who accelerated away from the field with a 65 to back up a second round 60.

Clarke will look back on the two double bogeys he carded this week which meant he couldn’t get within arms length of Stricker and an early double on the par-4 3rd ultimately put paid to his chances of a final day charge.

Birdies on 1, 4 and 7 saw him turn in 35 and he finished his round well with a back nine of 33 to complete a fine recovery from the early mistake.

It’s an encouraging start for the Senior Open champion who other than his win had struggled to contend for titles throughout 2022.

The Dungannon native was finished tied second alongside Steven Alter, Mike Weir and Ken Tanigawa.

For Stricker, his 12th PGA Tour champions title was one he savoured as he got off to the ideal and perhaps ominous start to the 2023 campaign.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Stricker after completing his final round. “To win here, I didn’t know what kind of game I had coming into this week, but it was pretty good.

“Yeah, you can’t beat this, right? We’re over in Hawaii just playing a great tournament, a wonderful venue. The course is in great shape. Mitsubishi puts on a tremendous tournament for us and to start the year off with a win is special and kind of hopefully sets up a good year and keep ‘er going.

“Played solidly and did a lot of good things this week and controlled my ball really well. Just happy the way things turned out. Wasn’t too stressful coming down the last few holes, which is always nice,” explained the 2021 Ryder Cup captain who collected his fifth win in his last eleven starts.

Stricker has won 25% of the time he has teed it up on the PGA TOUR Champions meaning he has a strike rate of one in every four events and he looks set to be challenging for the Schwab Cup again this season with the likes of Pádraig Harrington and defending champion Steve Alker.

“You know, I saw that stat somewhere along the way. I feel lucky and blessed to be able to be doing this still, especially where I came from a year ago. It’s still a lot of fun. I still put in the time, I put in the effort.

“I’ve got a great support system in my wife and kids love to see me play, and Mario helps when he’s not playing. You know, everybody that’s with me is so supportive; my family, my parents I should say and my in-laws. It still keeps going, I still feel like there’s more to do and I can continue to play and play at a higher level. So it’s exciting for me still to come out here and play.”

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