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Stricker leaves his mark on Deutsche Bank

Two closing birdies produce win, FedEx Cup lead

Doug Ferguson Associated Press

NORTON, Mass. – Steve Stricker can build a strong case for the Deutsche Bank Championship as the biggest victory of his career.

It was his first win with Tiger Woods in the tournament. His third victory of the season moved him up to a career-high No. 2 in the world ranking. And he replaced Woods atop the FedEx Cup standings.

What satisfied Stricker the most, however, was how he won.

In a wild Labor Day finish on the TPC Boston, where a half-dozen players came to the par-5 18th hole with hopes of winning, Stricker finished with back-to-back birdies for a 4-under 67 and a one-shot victory Monday.

“Knowing I had to make a couple of birdies, and actually doing it means a lot,” he said.

The names kept changing atop the leaderboard throughout the back nine, and Stricker only found comfort from seeing his name in the mix. Jason Dufner was the first player to break out of the tie with a two-putt birdie on the 18th. Standing in the 17th fairway, Stricker heard another cheer through the trees and figured it was Scott Verplank making birdie – his fourth in a row – to tie for the lead.

Then Stricker took over.

He knocked in a 15-foot birdie on the 17th, helped by getting a good read on the tricky putt from Retief Goosen. Then, he split the middle of the 18th fairway and hit a hybrid just over the green. He hit a delicate chip to tap-in range for the win.

“It was a tough day. There was a lot of guys in the mix,” Stricker said. “And I just found a way to get it done.”

Stricker finished at 17-under 267 and earned $1.35 million. He also built a 909-point lead over Woods in the FedEx Cup with two tournaments remaining. Because the points are reset after next week in Chicago, Stricker is assured of being no worse than the No. 2 seed in the Tour Championship with a chance to win the $10 million prize.

Dufner, who had to go through two stages of Q-school last year, two-putted from 40 feet for birdie and a 65 for 268. Verplank birdied his last four holes for a 67. Woods, who tied a tournament record with a 30 on the front nine, settled for a 63 and 272.

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