Steve Stricker Steve Stricker satisfied with runner-up finish at Mercedes-Benz Championship

The two-time reigning PGA Tour comeback player of the year got his 2008 season off to a solid start with a runner-up finish in last weekend's Mercedes-Benz Championship.

Steve Stricker shot 18-under 274, including a final-round score of 7-under-par 66, to force a playoff with eventual winner Daniel Chopra. Although Stricker wound up losing in a four-hole playoff, he said it was difficult to come away too disappointed with his performance in the winner's-only tournament.

"I don't know any other way to put it except that I'm excited about the way I'm playing," Stricker told reporters after earning $630,000 for his finish. "I'm looking forward to going to the Sony Open next week. It would have been nice to come away with a victory here, but again, I just continue to improve, and I feel like I keep building and I keep learning about myself and my game and a lot of great things happened to me again this week."

After a slow start, Stricker came on strong on the par-73 Plantation Course at Kapalua. Stricker was at even par for the tournament through his first 31 holes, but caught fire and played the remaining 41 holes in 18 under par.

Not too bad, especially considering that Stricker didn't have much of an opportunity to sharpen his game after spending most of the holidays in chilly Wisconsin. He hadn't played in a tournament since the Target World Challenge in mid-December.

"I was able to hit balls at home every once in a while, but not really get into playing shape," said Stricker, who has now recorded 17 top-10 finishes since the start of the 2006 season. "It was really the land of the unknown for me what to expect, and that's why I think I got off to kind of a slow start.

"After that, after those nine holes, I kind of settled down and kind of got back into the rhythm of the game and did very well."

Keeping his chin up

Despite failing to close the deal after taking the lead into the final round of the Mercedes-Benz Championship, Mike Weir said he wouldn't bee too hard on himself.

Weir finished fourth at 16-under 276 and pocketed $310,000 for his efforts. He shot 3-under 70 in the final round, bouncing back from a tough start to give himself a chance to get back in the tournament late.

"I'm not going to beat myself up," Weir said in a press conference following his round. "I played well, just a bad start. If I could have made some putts, I could have easily still shot five, six or seven under maybe and been right there."

Better left unsaid

Golf Channel announcer Kelly Tilghman said she has apologized personally to Tiger Woods for a comment she made last Friday during the telecast of the Mercedes-Benz Championships.

Tilghman also gave a public apology Tuesday in a statement issued by her network.

"I used some poorly chosen words," she said in the statement. "I have known Tiger for 12 years and I have apologized directly to him. I also apologize to our viewers who may have been offended."

The statement in question was made when Tilghman and analyst Nick Faldo were discussing how other PGA Tour players might be able to compete with Woods, the No. 1-ranked player in the world. "Lynch him in a back alley," Tilghman jokingly suggested.

From tee to green

• Last Sunday's four-hole playoff between Chopra and Stricker was the longest in the history of the Mercedes-Benz Championship. It was the fourth time that the tournament has gone to a playoff since the event moved to Kapalua in 1999.

• Four first-time participants finished among the top-10 in the season-opening tournament. The list included Chopra (first), Hunter Mahan (tied for fifth), Nick Watney (tie for fifth) and Brandt Snedeker (tied for 10th).

Rory Sabbatini, known for his outspokenness in recent years, has apparently turned over a new leaf in the new year. The South African reportedly turned down several interview requests last week, albeit politely, telling an Associated Press reporter, "I'm done talking to you guys."

January 9, 2008

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