Steve Stricker made his Champions Tour debut at Omni Tucson National Resort last year and finished as the runner-up to winner Tom Lehman. Now with a little more experience under his belt on the senior tour reserved for golf veterans, Stricker is the betting favorite at 3/1 to win the Cologuard Classic, which tees off on Friday.
It’s not difficult to see why the 51-year-old is the top pick by the Westgate LV SuperBook. In addition to finishing behind Lehman last year, he tied for second last week in his first Champions Tour event of the 2018 season.
Other notable picks in Tuscon, Arizona, include Bernhard Langer at 6/1, David Toms at 7/1, Jerry Kelly at 8/1, and Vijay Singh at 15/1.
Stricker is splitting time between the PGA Tour and Champions Tour for the second consecutive year. He is having more success on the over-50 circuit. He played in six of Champions Tour events in 2017, with impressive results in all of them — four Top-5 finishes, an eighth place, and a 13th place.
And Stricker’s no slouch on the regular tour. Last year, he missed only two cuts in 14 events. In major events, he tied for 16th at the Masters and the US Open, while placing 37th in the British Open and 54th at the PGA Championship.
By comparison, the only player in the Top 5 of the Official World Golf Rankings to make the cut in all four majors was Jordan Spieth. Stricker told the Arizona Daily Star that winning anywhere is difficult.
“It doesn’t matter what tour you’re playing, it’s a challenge to win at any level,” he said. “These guys are all proven winners out here. I’ve made a couple hiccups along the way in a couple of those events to not pull it off, to not win.”
Tucson High and Dry?
The loss to Lehman last year in Tuscon seems to have stuck with Stricker. In 2017, he had a two-stroke lead going into the third and final day, but shot a final-round 70 to lose by one. (Stricker also tied for second at a PGA event at the Omni Tuscon in 1994.)
“I feel like I’ve been close,” Stricker said. “Not that this place owes me anything, but I feel like I want to get it, I want to finally get this place. So that’s my goal this week.”
Langer is another person who has been left high and dry in Tucson. The 16-time Champions Tour victor is winless here, though he has finished third the previous two years. He is 36 under par in nine rounds and hasn’t shot worse than 71.
“Well,” Langer told the Star, “it’s always the same — be better than the others, right? Can’t afford to make a lot of bogeys around here and got to make some putts. There’s a few key holes where par is a good score, but there’s a bunch of birdie chances as well, and you’ve got to just capitalize on those.”