To think it all started at a Monday qualifier 15 months ago.
Thirty-two events and $4,710,612 later, Steven Alker has reached new heights. On Sunday, he clinched his first PGA Tour Champions series title at Phoenix Country Club, punctuating his win with a big smile and a fist pump on the 18th green.
Alker shot a final-round 68 to finish solo third, which was a whopping eight shots back of tournament winner Padraig Harrington, but still good enough to clinch the series title for the first time. With a Harrington win, any finish inside the top five would have been good enough for Alker.
“Amazing. Honestly, just having friends and family and the support here this week has been amazing,” said Alker, who has lived in Arizona since 2002. “Playing with Padraig today, it was kind of difficult because ‘Do I chase him, do I protect?’ … I just tried to play my game as good as I could, but he played amazing and just glad to be champion.”
This moment is the culmination of a rapid-fire success rate for Alker since joining the senior circuit.
In 2021, 18 days after he turned 50 which made him eligible for the PGA Tour Champions, Alker flew to Seattle looking for an outside shot at getting into the Boeing Classic. He got in thanks a strong Monday qualifier score, a rout he had to take because he had no status on the tour.
He hasn’t played in a PGA Tour event since 2017 and he spent the majority of his pro career slogging through Korn Ferry Tour events. According to Harrington, Alker grinding on the Korn Ferry Tour into his late 40s is what most likely set the table for his amazing run now.
“The fact is he was always a nice player,” Harrington said Wednesday before the championship got started. “He’s probably as physically fit now as he was 20 years ago, so he hasn’t gone backwards. The players who tend to do nicely out here are the ones who are still trying to be competitive from 45 years of age to 50 years of age. Those are the ones. You can’t give the game up for five years or eight years or 10 years and hope to come out here and find it again, you know, unless you were a world-class player. You’ve got to keep being competitive and he did that. That’s why you’re seeing his good play now. He was still on the Korn Ferry Tour when he was 49 years of age. There’s not a lot of guys at 49 who could do that.”
Rounds of 67-73-67 in his first Champions event netted him a tie for seventh in the 2021 Boeing Classic, and that would be it for his Monday qualifying days as that top-10 finish earned him a spot in the field the next week at the Ally Challenge, where he finished solo third. From there, he kept getting into more Champions events because he kept stacking up top-10s.
In fact, he posted six straight top-10s and earned a spot in the 2021 Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs. In the second of the two playoff events last year, Alker found victory lane at the TimberTech Championship. A second-place finish at Phoenix Country Club the following week capped a whirlwind stretch and put $1,146,207 into his bank account.
The calendar change to 2022 didn’t slow him down. Alker won three times before June 1 and then won for a series-tying fourth time to open the Schwab playoffs.
By the time they got to Phoenix, Alker had a commanding lead in the points race. Even Harrington’s blistering weekend scores of 62 and 65 had no bearing on the steady Alker. He didn’t make a bogey until the 12th hole Sunday. He had another one on 13 but then birdied the 14th. A birdie on the 16th was his 21st of the week.
Alker’s third-place finish is worth $210,000, bringing his 2022 total $3,544,425 and career total to $4,710,632.
“Just a lot of hard yards. It’s just, you know, I’ve played everywhere, I’ve played everywhere and I think that kind of helped today in a way just playing the PGA Tour and Australasia and Asia and Korn Ferry,” he said. “I’ve played everywhere. It’s been an amazing journey and just to be here and to have this opportunity has been amazing.”
Now it’s time to celebrate, but how?
“I like red wine,” he said. “I don’t want to mix drinks tonight, won’t be a good idea, but we’ll have a couple. It will probably sink in a bit more tomorrow, but yeah, this is neat, it’s so cool.”
Alker will also collect $1 million in bonus money for winning the Schwab Cup series title, money that will be paid out as a lump sum deposit into a Schwab brokerage account.
Article By: Todd Kelly
Date Published: November 13th, 2022
Phil Mickelson didn’t want to “detract from what’s happening this week” at LIV Golf’s Team Championship in Miami at Trump National Doral, but a recent Rory McIlroy interview with the Guardian was too juicy to avoid.
At a press conference ahead of the upstart circuit’s season finale, Mickelson was complimentary of McIlroy, who said the “us versus them” dynamic between LIV Golf and players on the PGA and DP World tours has gotten out of control.
“You know, I think a lot of Rory. I really have the utmost respect for him, and I look at what he’s done in the game and how he’s played this year and his win last week and No. 1 in the world now, and I have a ton of respect for him,” said Mickelson. “We’ll have three months off after this event to talk about things like that and so forth, but this week something is happening that I don’t want to deflect focus on, which is we’ve never had a team event like this in professional golf.”
McIlroy also took exception to Mickelson’s recent comment that LIV Golf is trending upwards and the PGA Tour is trending downwards, calling that statement “propaganda.”
“But just — maybe I shouldn’t have said stuff like that, I don’t know,” responded Mickelson, “but if I’m just looking at LIV Golf and where we are today to where we were six, seven months ago and people are saying this is dead in the water, and we’re past that, and here we are today, a force in the game that’s not going away, that has players of this caliber that are moving professional golf throughout the world and the excitement level in the countries around the world of having some of the best players in the game of golf coming to their country and competing. It’s pretty remarkable how far LIV Golf has come in the last six, seven months. I don’t think anybody can disagree with that.”
The Greg Norman-led operation receives its financial backing from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, where no expense has been spared. Building a new golf series certainly isn’t easy, and LIV has done well to attract a few of golf’s biggest names like Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Cameron Smith. But the problems that come with building a startup become less challenging when you’ve got hundreds of millions of dollars to throw around. According to Sports Illustrated, LIV Golf’s first-year expenditure totaled upwards of $784 million, with another $1 billion committed for next year, when the series becomes a 14-event league.
As for excitement levels across the world, so far LIV has held seven events: Four in the United States, one in England, one in Thailand and one in Saudi Arabia.
McIlroy also said he felt “betrayal” in regards to LIV players putting their Ryder Cup futures in jeopardy, noting how Graeme McDowell had a chance to captain the Europeans in 2027 and the legacies of Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood are mainly based around the biennial bash against the Americans.
“A betrayal? We can still qualify for the team as far as I’m aware. Unless we’ve been told we can’t qualify, then I’m still ready to play as much as I possibly can and try to make that team,” said Poulter. “I mean, look, my commitment to the Ryder Cup I think goes before me. I don’t think that should ever come in question. I’ve always wanted to play Ryder Cups and have played with as much passion as anyone else that I’ve ever seen play a Ryder Cup.
“You know, I don’t know where that comment really has come from, to be honest.”
Article By: Adam Woodard
Date Published: October 26, 2022
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