Steven Alker had just lost his 2022 PGA Tour Champions season finale by eight shots, but you wouldn’t know it from the smile on his face and celebratory fist pump. The 51-year-old New Zealander, coming off the par 18 green at Phoenix Country Club on Sunday, congratulated Darryl Harrington on winning the Charles Schwab Cup and setting the par 72-hole golf course record in the process. However, Alkire’s solo third-place finish was good enough to stay atop the final standings in the points race in the year-long Charles Schwab Cup and capped the storybook season.
Fifteen months ago, Ulker did not have a high profile Tour, qualifying on Monday securing his first start. He finished as a T-7 that week at the Boeing Classic, beginning a streak of six consecutive top-10 finishes that rolled to victory in the second-to-last event of 2021.
Proving that his early success on the 50-and-over circuit was no fluke, Alker continued to impress in 2022, winning three times and scoring seven times in his first nine matches – including a major title shot at KitchenAid Championship for adults. Perpetual globetrotter — Alker had made 86 career PGA Tour starts without a Top 10, and with 47 missed cuts plus 80 European Tour starts with a Top 10 and 42 missed cuts — he was suddenly unbeatable. He added another title in October and scored another nine in his last 14 games.
Alker’s dominant play—he finished 2022 with a 68.2 average in 75 innings—gave him such a lead on the 2022 points list heading into the final event in Phoenix that he could become the season’s champion even second seed Lou Harrington. The guy won the ranking. Alker only needed to finish in the top five out of 33 players; Mission accomplished 68 shutouts for a total of 19 under 265.
“Just a lot of hard yards,” Alker said, when reflecting on what he went through to get to this point. “You know, I’ve played everywhere and I think that kind of helped me today with the way I play the PGA Tour, Australia, Asia and Corn Ferry. I’ve played everywhere. It’s been an amazing journey and just being here and this opportunity has been amazing.”
Alker took home the series’ year-long title, earning another $1 million on top of the $210,000 he made for finishing third. His final winnings on the tournament, separate from the Schwab Cup bonus, was $3.5 million.
Harrington was smiling too, after finishing the final 65 with a 27-under 257 and a seven-shot win over Alex Checa. Harrington’s score broke the PGA Tour champions’ record for lowest total of 72 holes, set by Tom Lehmann in the 2012 Schwab Cup tournament, and tied the lowest score for par set by Jack Nicklaus in the Mazda Senior Championship in 1990. It was Harrington’s fourth win in the tournament. 2022, where he has been matching Alker for most of this year.
Happy enough with his performance, Harrington knew there was another big winner on Sunday.
“Steven is the truly deserving winner of the year,” he said. “It’s not like he’s just showing up at the end of the year and winning on a couple of occasions and all of a sudden he’s won the Schwab Cup. The pressure has been on him since the beginning of the year all the way. He’s had proof and several of us have been holding on to him all year. It’s admirable that he not only stuck with it, but he Elegantly won.