Alker comes out of the rain for a 4-stroke victory on the Champions Tour

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THE WOODLANDS, Texas (AP) — Steven Alker came back from a two-hour rain delay playing a six-hole streak in a par 6-under back nine to pass Steve Stricker, close with a 6-under 66 and winning the Insperity Invitational on Sunday for his second victory this year on the PGA Tour Champions.

Alker had to make a pair of tough saves to close out the front nine at The Woodlands and stay one step ahead of Stricker, who was playing for the first time in six months.

Alker birdied three straight from No. 11 and then he effectively put the tournament aside by throwing an eagle putt on the par-5 15 to build a four-shot lead.


Stricker and Brandt Jobe each shot 70 and tied for second, four shots behind. Alker finished at 18-under 198.

Stricker was hospitalized late last year when his liver count plummeted and his white blood cell count rose. He lost 25 pounds and worried about his strength and endurance in his first competition since October 10.

The Ryder Cup-winning captain has held up well. He just couldn’t hang out with Alker.

“I felt my game was getting a little bit better every day,” Stricker said.

Alker won the Rapiscan Systems Classic in Mississippi, and he was on course for back-to-back wins until he lost in the playoffs away to Dallas by hitting in the water. He now has two wins, as well as two playoff losses.

This victory allowed him to climb to the top of the Charles Schwab Cup standings with his $345,000 for his victory. Not bad for a Kiwi who only nine months ago had no status on the 50-plus circuit.

He qualified for the Boeing Classic and continued to finish in the top 10 to enter the following week, eventually winning through to the season finale.

In 17 PGA Tour Champions starts, Alker has 10 top-five finishes.

“It was a fun race,” Alker said. “I’m just happy to be here. Everything happened. I enjoy my game. Everything is great fun.

The rain delay helped in another way. Alker said he was watching TV coverage and noticed his swing was a bit off. He came back and tried to stay over the ball more, and he was pretty much clear the rest of the way.

Jobe rose alone to second with a birdie on the par-3 16, only to miss a short par putt on the next hole and fail to convert a 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole.

Stricker came away happy with his game, but isn’t sure if he’ll play next week in Atlanta or take a week off before the first of five PGA Tour Champions majors.

“If you had seen me where I was a month ago and where I am today, that’s what makes me happy because I’ve come a long way in just a month,” Stricker said. . “If I can keep getting stronger and progressing next month, I’ll be fine.”

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