Stricker Fights Burnout and Torrey Pines

By Associated PressJune 12, 2008, 4:00 pm
2008 U.S. OpenSAN DIEGO -- A sizzling start briefly put Steve Stricker atop the U.S. Open leaderboard, not on top of the world.
The man who battled Tiger Woods down to the wire at the 2007 FedEx Cup playoffs has been fighting burnout over the last two months. Hes been unable to keep his mental focus long enough to break out of his slump and enjoy the game.
Ive hit a wall, said Stricker, whos been losing his concentration from one hole to the next, turning good starts into foul moods and leaving him watching on the weekend in his last four tournaments, beginning with his bafflingly poor performance at the Masters.
So when he made the turn Thursday at 4-under, thanks to four birdies in his first seven holes, Stricker knew he wasnt really going to conquer this course or his weariness, not on this day.
Trouble, as has been the case for so long, was waiting just around the corner.
A double bogey on the next hole, the par-4 No. 1, was the kindling for a plus-6 flameout on his second nine that left Stricker at 2-over, still a respectable score but a big letdown after such a spectacular start.
Im alive, Stricker said afterward. For a while there I was thinking about jumping in the canyon.
The double bogey, he said, didnt bother him as much as his inability to recover quickly, a trait that helped him win almost $8 million over the last 2 1/2 years and the 2006 and 07 comeback player of the year honors after he famously rebounded from a four-year slump that threatened to end his career.
It was a good start and then a bad backside, Stricker said. And youre going to do that at No. 1. Youre going to make a double, youre going to catch a lie in the rough that you cant get out of. That one didnt bother me. It was the next two holes that bothered me the most.
He pulled his 3-wood left on the par-4 No. 2, where his three-footer lipped out.
Then he misjudged the wind and hit a poor 9-iron on No.3, the 195-yard, par-3 with the pin tucked in the left corner. The ball rolled down a steep hill, leaving Stricker with an almost straight-up chip shot back onto the green.
The first one didnt quite make it and trickled back down to his spikes.
A second wedge shot just barely crawled over the lip, slowing spinning within six feet of the cup.
I was very lucky to make it in four, Stricker said. I kind of miscalculated the wind. It was more out of the right than what I had thought.
Its been the tale of really the last four tournaments. Im there. I show some signs of good play and then I disappear'my thinking, I dont know. I cant put a finger on it, but I disappear for a while mentally and then I fight to get it back, Stricker said.
Ive lost some confidence a little bit over the last couple of months.
Fellow Wisconsinite Jerry Kelly said hes not worried about his friend and neighbor the way he was several years ago when Stricker was fighting his demons as his world ranking dipped to 337th.
Kelly said Strickers game is closer than he thinks and he just needs to clear his head.
Which is exactly what Stricker is going to do.
Ive just kind of got tired and Im going to step away a little bit to do what I need to do and Ill make another run at it, said Stricker, who is trying to make his 11th cut in 13 Opens.
Hell start by tagging along with his wife, Nicki, at the Madison City womens tournament next week, although he emphasizes hell be carting his way around the course, not caddying.
Its a lot more fun than beating yourself up out there, he said, nodding toward the city-owned Torrey Pines course along the Pacific bluffs.
Hes also planning a three-day fishing trip, hoping to find the revelations on the lake that have eluded him on the links.
If you did this every day, youve got to do something different, dont you?
Since finding his game in 2006, Stricker has gone full-bore, catching his breath only at the end of the season.
After dueling with Woods in the FedEx Cup last September, he started this year by losing a playoff at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, followed by three more top-10 finishes that had him ranked fourth in the world.
Now, hes going to have to rejuvenate his game and rediscover his passion for the sport to have a shot at making his first U.S. Ryder Cup team, which seemed like such a sure thing not so long ago.
Ive come close maybe four other times throughout my career where Ive had an opportunity to make this team, he said. And Id hate to kind of let another one slip away.
But first things first.
First of all, play well here. Thats what I keep telling myself, he said. Ive got this to worry about, play well here.
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  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

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    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

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    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.

    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''