Steven Alker picked up right where he left off, winning the PGA Tour Champions’ season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Ka’upulehu-Kona, Hawaii.
Alker, who won the Charles Schwab Championship to wrap up the 2023 season in November, fired a second straight 9-under 63 at Hualalai Golf Course on Saturday to shoot a 54-hole total of 25-under 191, and win by four strokes over Harrison Frazar and five over last year’s Charles Schwab Cup champion Steve Stricker.
“I knew Stricker and Harrison were going to come at me, so just kept the pedal to the metal,” Alker said.
It wasn’t lost on Alker, 52, that a year ago he finished tied for second on the Big Island with caddie Sam Workman on the bag. Less than three weeks later, the 55-year-old Workman died on Feb. 6 of cancer. When Alker arrived at the course on Tuesday, he was greeted by a rainbow in the sky and during the final round he was the beneficiary of a fortuitous bounce at the par-5 seventh hole when his second shot, a 4-iron from 218 yards, sailed right of the green, bounced off the cart path twice and ricocheted off lava and on to the green about 40 feet left of the hole. He proceeded to drain the putt for an unlikely eagle. Alker couldn’t see it from his vantage point but when he was shown video of the shot later, he credited “good karma.”
Exactly one year ago, Sam Workman caddied for Steven Alker here (Hualalai) in what turned out to be Sam’s last event ever. He passed away a week later from cancer. This morning, we were greeted with this rainbow #SamWorkman #TeamAlker #Hualalai pic.twitter.com/Ws01q8Jukd
— Troy Martin (@TroyMartinGolf) January 17, 2024
“Someone said it kind of kicked off the path and rolled up and went left. Just a fortunate break,” he said. “I was surprised to see it on the left side of the green. Thought it must have hit either someone or something. It could have gone anywhere.
“As I said in my speech, sometimes it goes one way and last year, a couple years ago it goes the other way, so it all kind of works out in the end,” he added. “Made that putt, which was huge.”
Said Stricker, who collected his PGA Tour Champions Player of the Year Award earlier in the week: “You get a bounce like that, and capitalize like that, it’s kind of your day.”
With veteran caddie Troy Martin ably filling the shoes of Workman on the bag, Alker followed up the eagle at seven with a birdie at eight to build a three-shot cushion and never looked back, matching the low 54-hole score in PGA Tour Champions history.
Steven Alker of New Zealand reacts as he sinks his birdie putt on the 18th green to win the PGA Tour Champions Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai Golf Course on Jan. 20, 2024 in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Among the well-wishers to congratulate the New Zealand native on his eighth career Champions Tour win in just 54 starts was Germany’s Bernhard Langer.
“Starting off the way you finished,” Langer said. “Good for you. Pretty special.”
“We’ve got the rust off anyway, Bernhard,” Alker responded.
“Well, I’ve got work to do, but you got it,” Langer said.
Alker, who has at least one win in each of his four seasons, dating back to 2021, has found that winning way.