Steve Stricker finally found the winning formula at the Memorial yesterday in Dublin, Ohio.
Stricker, who had never finished in the top 10 in his 11 previous trips to Muirfield Village, built a big lead with more flawless golf on the front nine, then relied on his silky putting stroke for two clutch pars to hang on for a one-shot victory.
He closed with a 4-under 68, lagging from 20 feet for a two-putt bogey on the 18th hole. By then, the hard work was over. Stricker twice saved par from bunkers on the 16th and 17th holes, making putts of 15 feet and 7 feet to go to the last hole with a two-shot lead.
"It wasn't pretty," Stricker said to tournament host Jack Nicklaus walking off the 18th green.
Matt Kuchar and Brandt Jobe each closed with a 65 to tie for second.
Stricker, 44, moves to No. 4 in the world and becomes the highest-ranked American for the first time in his career. He won for the 10th time in his career, and the seventh time since he turned his game around 5 years ago.
Dustin Johnson closed with a 65 to finish fourth, followed by Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who had a 68. The biggest consolation prize went to Gary Woodland, who had a 68 to finish alone in sixth. Woodland likely will move to about No. 40 in the world ranking, making him virtually a lock to get into the U.S. Open.
Stricker, who led by four shots at the turn, made it more interesting than it needed to be, especially after a 2 1/2-hour storm delay that slowed his momentum following a spectacular bunker save behind the 12th green.
"It was a little bit of a struggle since we came in from the rain delay," he said. "At that point, I was trying not to make a mistake. I hung tough, made a couple of crucial putts when I had to."
In other tournaments:
* At West Des Moines, Iowa, Bob Gilder made a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 18, then watched Mark Brooks bogey the hole to escape with a one-stroke victory in the Principal Charity Classic. Gilder, 60, earned his 10th victory on the senior circuit but first since 2006. He closed with a 6-under 65 for a 14-under 199 total.
* At Newport, Wales, unheralded Swede Alexander Noren captured his second European Tour title by winning the Wales Open, shooting a 1-under 70 for a two-stroke victory. The 127th-ranked Noren finished at 9-under 275 at Celtic Manor.