Wonder shot at 12th a Kapalua sparks Stricker

If Steve Stricker goes on to clinch his 10th PGA Tour title at the Tournament of Champions, he will reflect on one spectacular shot during Saturday`s third round as the turning point.

Updated: Jan 09, 2011, 14:17 PM IST

Kapalua: If Steve Stricker goes on to clinch his 10th PGA Tour title at the Tournament of Champions, he will reflect on one spectacular shot during Saturday`s third round as the turning point.

The American world number seven struck a four-iron into the wind to five feet at the par-four 12th after having to contend with an awkward lie in a fairway bunker.
Stricker`s ball had ended up in front of a grass divot which he was not permitted to touch with his club at any point during his swing.

"That was kind of a do-or-die swing, really," Stricker told reporters after ending the third round in a three-way tie for the lead with compatriots Robert Garrigus and Jonathan Byrd.

"I had a divot left of the ball which really was not in play but I had a two-inch-by-one-inch piece of a divot right behind the ball and it was kind of blowing back and forth."

Fairly sure he was not permitted to hit the divot on his downswing, Stricker called over a PGA Tour rules official for clarification.

"And he made a good point ... saying I couldn`t touch it at all on the way back or when I`m addressing it," Stricker added. "A good thing because I didn`t really think about that part of it."

From 178 yards into the wind, the 43-year-old knew he had to bring his four-iron down slightly on the inside before taking the ball cleanly off the sand.
"I just hit it up in the air and it came out perfect," said Stricker. "I didn`t hit the piece of grass. I nipped it just right and when you hit a shot like that, you want to make that putt."

"That was the topper of it all, making the five-footer, straight downgrain, so a pretty straight putt. That was kind of a big key to the round, keeping it going."

Stricker`s miraculous birdie at the 12th was among a sizzling run of five from the 11th as he surged up the leaderboard in the elite event which brings together PGA Tour winners from the previous season.

He ended up shooting a best-of-the-day, eight-under-par 65 in tricky, blustery winds for an 18-under total of 201.

"I just kept giving myself chances all the way around on the back side, hit them close and made the putts," he said. "All in all, a good day and I got myself in position to win."

"This course takes some getting used to. Fortunately I`ve been over here three or four times, played it a bunch and had some success here, so I feel good here."

He will feel even better if he can go on to secure victory in Sunday`s final round.

Bureau Report