Fit-again Stricker scores season-opening win in Hawaii

    World number five Steve Stricker has now won 12 times on the PGA Tour since turning pro in 1990.

    Story highlights

    • Steve Stricker clinches the PGA Tour's season-opening Tournament of Champions
    • American suffered a neck injury four months ago which restricted arm movement
    • The world No. 5 finishes three shots clear of Scottish golfer Martin Laird
    • American duo of defending champion Jonathan Byrd and Webb Simpson finish third
    American golfer Steve Stricker showed that his injury problems are behind him as he wrapped up a three-shot victory at the season-opening Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
    Four months ago, Stricker was forced to withdraw from the BMW Championship with a neck problem which restricted movement in his left arm and cast doubts over his future on the PGA Tour.
    The 44-year-old opted to undergo a course of physiotherapy and cortisone injections rather than surgery, a decision which paid dividends when he held off the challenge of Scotland's Martin Laird at the Plantation Course in Kapalua on Monday to secure his 12th PGA Tour title.
    "I was comfortable today," Stricker told the tour's website. "That's what I was really proud of."
    Just as he had done on Sunday, the world number five allowed a five-shot overnight lead to slip to just a single stroke.
    A bogey at the sixth hole left Stricker within striking distance for the chasing pack of Laird and fellow Americans Webb Simpson and defending champion Jonathan Byrd.
    But Stricker, who reached a career-high ranking of second in February 2010, rallied and hit five birdies over the final 12 holes for a 69 which moved him onto 23 under par for the tournament.
    He has now won nine PGA events since turning 40, and eight since 2009.
    "It doesn't matter if it's me or anybody else," Stricker said. "Always in the final round, it gets close at some point in time. It's just the nature of our game.
    "I think you're able to lose your patience much more at a younger age and just kind of -- not give up, but just feel like it's not going to go your way. Believe me, I've felt like that at times.
    "But you've just got to keep hanging in there. It's hard. It's a challenge. But it's worth it -- especially when it works out in the end."
    Laird finished second on 20 under after carding 67, leaving him one shot clear of third-placed Simpson (68) and Byrd (68).
    World No. 33 Laird described Stricker as "the most underrated player in the world."
    K.J. Choi posted an eight-under 65, the joint-best round of the day alongside the 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley, which gave the veteran South Korean a share of fifth with American Harrison Frazar (68) on 15 under.
    Bradley had a disappointing tournament, but finished with a flourish to move onto 11 under and place 16th in the 27-man field.
    Chris Kirk (67) and Bryce Molder (70) tied for seventh on 14 under, while fellow Americans Johnson Wagner (67) and Ben Crane (68) finished in a three-way tie for ninth alongside South Africa's Rory Sabbatini (68).