HARRISON, N.Y. (AP) — What looked like more heartache for Steve Stricker turned into the sweetest victory of his career.

After going 6 1/2 years and 146 tournaments without winning, Stricker birdied four of his last five holes Sunday at The Barclays for a stunning turnaround that gave him a 2-under 69 and a two-shot victory over K.J. Choi.

“It was hard, but it was fun,” Stricker said, his voice choking as tears streamed down the side of his face. “I never knew if I was going to win again.”

It sure wasn’t easy, not with 10 players separated by three shots — five of them major champions. And not with Choi holing two birdie putts that were a combined 95 feet, making it look as if he were destined to win.

Stricker, who already let four chances of winning slip away this year, refused to buckle.

And when his final birdie from 8 feet dropped into the cup, he raised his arms and hugged his caddie, Tom Matthews, who first caddied for Stricker when he won the 2001 Match Play Championship in Australia.

Even without Tiger Woods, the inaugural PGA Tour Playoffs got off to a rousing start.