Ernie Els beats Steve Stricker in playoff to win in Madison

Ernie Els of South Africa beat tournament host Steve Stricker on the first playoff hole to capture the American Family Insurance Championship on Sunday in Madison, Wis., Els’ second win in as many weeks.

Both Els and Stricker shot 3-under 69 for their final round at University Ridge Golf Course, but Els had to close a late deficit by birdieing Nos. 12, 13, 14 and 16 to catch up to Stricker.

At the first playoff hole, a replay of the par-4 18th, Stricker had a 2 1/2-foot putt for par to tie the hole. But the putt lipped out, uncharacteristically so for one of the best putters on tour.

Els told reporters he said “I’m sorry” to Stricker when they hugged after the playoff.

“I really feel for Steve missing that short putt, but I’ve done that, a lot of people have done that,” Els said. “He had a great week, he’s a great guy and runs a great tournament.”

Els, 54, also won the Principal Charity Classic last week in Des Moines, Iowa. The former World No. 1 now has five career titles on the PGA Tour Champions.

“You’ve got to keep going, you’ve got to believe that things are going to come around,” Els said. “I’ve had a great career. Never thought I’d be in the Hall of Fame, all that stuff, but all that stuff came my way. But I still — when I compete, I want to compete at the highest level. And I’m quite hard on myself, so I just thought of making putts, just a couple more putts and driving it better. That’s really the difference between me finishing first here or finishing fifth or 10th.”

Stricker, 57, who dominated the tour with six victories in 2023, has yet to win in 2024. He also missed a short putt at his final hole of regulation to win outright.

“He feels bad winning like that and I feel bad giving it to him like that, but he played well,” Stricker said. “He strung together I think three birdies on that back side when he had to and he kind of answered the call when he had to because I had a three- or four-shot lead and kind of just let it slip away.”

He called Els a “great guy” he’s been glad to get to know over the years. As host, Stricker was also grateful for the money his tournament raised for charity.

Cameron Percy of Australia finished in third at 9 under following a 67. Doug Barron (66), Canada’s Stephen Ames (67) and Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn (69) tied for fourth at 8 under.