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Ernie Els outlasts Steve Stricker in American Family Insurance playoff

Ernie Els outlasts Steve Stricker in American Family Insurance playoff

MADISON, Wis. — Ernie Els got him again.

Steve Stricker and Els have gone head-to-head for nearly three decades, and they’ve had a match-play history dating back that long also. On three occasions, Els bested Stricker 1-on-1 and once more in a team format.

And though the American Insurance Family Championship is a stroke-play event, the 2024 tournament came down to a duel between the friends over the back nine Sunday at University Ridge Golf Course and Els eventually erased a four-shot deficit over the final seven holes to force a playoff.

Then, Stricker admittedly rushed himself over a short par putt to extend the tournament. It lipped out and Els was abruptly the tournament champion.

“He feels bad winning like that and I feel bad giving it to him like that, but he played well,” Stricker said. “He strung together I think three birdies on that back side when he had to and he kind of answered the call when he had to because I had a three- or four-shot lead and kind of just let it slip away.”

When he learned of their final round pairing on Saturday, Stricker had mentioned how Els chased him down in the 1996 World Match Play Championship, as Els made seven birdies over the final 16 holes to erase a six-shot deficit. And he acknowledged he felt that again at University Ridge Golf Course.

“I thought about it again today, I’m like here we go again,” Stricker said. “It’s like I had him down and that was the times, especially like on 13, 14, 15, 16 where I could have kind of closed the door. That’s what I should have done and I just didn’t do it. I didn’t hit it in there close enough, didn’t make the putts and hats off to him, he did.”

Els had also bested Stricker in head-to-head competition at the 2009 World Golf Championship Match Play and the 2013 Presidents Cup.

“I wanted to stay close to him because I knew Steve was going to be the guy,” Els said. “He’s such a classy player. But I got so angry with myself bogeying (the sixth hole), the par 5, and then bogeying seven, which is such a soft bogey, and then not birdieing nine, then my putts started slipping by the hole. I was a little frustrated, but somehow I kept hitting good shots and then started making putts. Then it became a two-horse race from back nine on 12, 13.

“Then we kind of, you know,…


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