The Sanford International gained its first two-time champion on Sunday when Steve Stricker rolled in a downhill birdie putt from 20 feet to defeat Robert Karlsson in a sudden-death playoff at Minnehaha Country Club.
The 18th hole presents quite a scene throughout the tournament with stadium seating on both sides of the fairway and behind the green. When a crowd favorite knocks down a long one in a playoff to secure a win, it adds up to a special moment for the guy who made the putt — along with a lot of the people who were there to witness it.
The tournament had a new presenting sponsor this year with First Premier Bank, Premier Bankcard and Mastercard, but the champion was very familiar.
“This is a great Midwest town with Midwestern values,” said Stricker, a Madison, Wisconsin, resident who won the inaugural Sanford International in 2018. “It feels like a home event for me. It really does. I get a lot of support here. I was just happy to deliver on the playoff hole. It was a lot of fun.”
The leaderboard was hinting at a playoff all afternoon with several golfers within a stroke of the lead — or a share of the lead — throughout the final nine holes. Karlsson, who tied the course record on Friday with a 62, entered Sunday’s round in a tie for the lead with Jeff Maggert.
Stricker began the day a shot back and persisted throughout the second and third round in staying near the top. On Sunday he birdied 12, 13, and 15 and then did the same at 16 to take the lead. His 6-under 64 set up the playoff with Karlsson.
After Karlsson nearly made a long, winding putt on the playoff hole for birdie, Stricker followed with the tournament-winner. It was his 10th title on the Champions Tour.
“I didn’t really take advantage of the conditions on Day 1,” he said. “The greens were soft and receptive with no wind. I knew I was behind the 8-ball after that. I needed the wind on Saturday to make the conditions a little bit tougher. It was more like the conditions we’re accustomed to at this tournament. I felt good with those conditions and put up a good round.”
The field that finished behind Stricker was considered the strongest ever for the Sanford International with 29 of the Champions Tour money list’s top 30 competing in the event. It included six World Golf Hall of Famers and all four previous champions.
“It’s great what Sanford and the community does to support this event,” Stricker said. “That in turn becomes charitable dollars that go back into the community. … It’s cool that everybody came out and we had a special day with the weather. It was a nice event again.”
- Round 2 of Sanford International has Karlsson, Maggert tied
- Robert Karlsson leads Day 1 of Sanford International
- Sanford International establishes unique bond with community