TROON, Scotland — Steve Stricker showed up at Royal Troon thinking this might be his last major championship. He can count on three more.
Stricker, 49, shot 2-under 69 to finish in fourth place at the British Open on Sunday at 5-under 279 and secure a return to the Masters, a trip back for the British Open at Birkdale next year and a place at the PGA Championship in Baltusrol in less than two weeks.
He'd been stubborn about not asking for an invitation for the PGA Championship, saying Thursday: "I want to earn my way there."
"When you're playing well, you're rewarded and you get to do some pretty cool things," said Stricker, who in 2012 started cutting down his schedule to spend more time at home with his family. He qualified for Royal Troon with a second-place finish last month at the St. Jude Classic.
This was his best finish at the British Open, beating his tie for seventh at Birkdale in 2008, and his best performance at a major since finishing second at the PGA Championship in 1998. Stricker said he was swinging the club more aggressively than ever after back surgery two years ago.
Stenson's inspiratIon: Henrik Stenson ended his winner's speech on the 18th green by dedicating his first major title to a close friend who died of cancer the day before the British Open started.
"I feel like he has been with me all week. Mike, this one is for you," said an emotional Stenson as he raised the claret jug one more time and kissed it.
Mike Gerbich was a friend of Stenson and his wife, Emma, when they lived in Dubai. Gerbich and Henrik played golf together.
"Henrik played for him this week," Emma said. "It was hard, definitely. I'm glad he did it for him."
Spieth eases misery: Jordan Spieth snapped an unwanted streak in the final round. The winner of two majors last year had gone 10 straight rounds in majors without breaking par. That run ended Sunday when he shot 3-under 68. Spieth finished at 2-over 286.
"I gained some momentum (Sunday), saw a couple putts go in from outside 6 feet," Spieth said. "We're trying to look at positives. I don't think we're far off from being able to tee off on Sunday afternoon at a major."