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TROON, Scotland – Steve Stricker showed up at Royal Troon thinking this might be his last major championship. He can count on three more.
The 49-year-old Stricker shot 2-under 69 to finish in fourth place at the British Open, securing 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 invite for the PGA Championship, saying Thursday: "I want to earn my way there."
He's done just that.
"It's a lot of spinoffs," said Stricker, who is ranked No. 167. "There are a lot of carrots dangling. When you're playing well, you're rewarded and you get to do some pretty cool things."
In 2012, Stricker said he would be cutting down his schedule to spend more time at home with his family. He has, but don't be fooled into thinking the fires no longer burn brightly inside the American, who qualified for Royal Troon with a second-place finish at the FedEx St. Jude Classic last month.
This was his best finish at an Open Championship, beating his tie for seventh at Birkdale in 2008, and 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.
"I still think that I have potential maybe one time to get in there," Stricker said when asked if he believed he could still win a major. "Maybe this was it, who knows? ... But it's nice to get the juices flowing and feel the pressure and try to perform down the stretch.
"I guess what I'm doing keeps me motivated to play. I'm not playing as much, but every time I come out I'm really excited to be playing, and that was my goal is not to get stale with it later in my career, and that's what I've done."
Away from the final-round duel between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson, the other players were left scrapping for the spots behind them.
J.B. Holmes ensured an American 2-3-4 by shooting 69 for his fourth straight round under par. That backed up his fourth-place finish at the Masters in April.
"I felt like coming into today the best position I could possibly get was third," he said. "Played well and ended up doing that way. Those guys (Stenson and Mickelson) are playing a different golf course from everybody else."
Holmes had a 6-under 278 total and was 14 strokes behind Stenson. Stricker was a shot further back.
Holmes moved up to fourth in the Ryder Cup standings.