Steve Stricker has become the new world No 2, taking the mantle from fellow American Phil Mickelson, after he overcame a late charge from Britain's Luke Donald to win the Northern Trust Open on Sunday.
Stricker shot a one-under 70 for a 16-under total of 268 to finish two strokes clear of Donald. The win, Stricker's eighth tour victory, gave the American a $1.15m (£735,000) winner's cheque and a chance to shoot for the top ranking in the absence of Tiger Woods. "I think if I would have set this goal back about six years ago, if I would have told anybody, they would have said, 'You're crazy'," said Stricker, who would need at least two more victories to displace Woods.
Luke Donald is determined to capitalise on his strong finish when he tees off later this week at Pebble Beach.
While Stricker held on for victory to deny Donald a first PGA Tour win since the 2006 Honda Classic, the fact the Englishman had narrowed the lead from six shots at the start of the final round did much to cheer him after a missed cut and a tie for 47th in his first two starts of 2010. "No one likes to finish second, but it's a confidence boost," Donald said ahead of this week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. "It means I'm going in the right direction, and I feel good about my game."
The European No 1 Lee Westwood shrugged off his winless start to the new season following his play-off defeat at the Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday. "The results, although I would like to have won last week, don't really concern me too much," he said.
"The game still feels a bit rusty and I'm mentally not quite sharp enough, but I'm hitting good shots."