Stricker Strictly Striking Saturday

By Brian HewittJuly 21, 2007, 4:00 pm
Steve Stricker just keeps coming back.
 
Last season he was the PGA TOURS Comeback Player of the Year, climbing from No. 162 to 34 on the money list and making 15 of 17 cuts despite limited status.
 
You dont want to win that award too many times, Stricker said cautiously.
 
Prior to that he lost his card in 2004 and questioned his desire to play the game that was his living. I wasnt sure what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, he said.
 
And worse, he added, I beat myself up for a while.
 
At the root of his problems was a driver swing that produced either snap hooks or high blocks. He found a way around it for a while thanks to putting and pure talent. At the 1998 PGA Championship at Sahalee he finished second to Vijay Singh despite never taking driver out of the bag all week.
 
But the spiral continued downward. Finally, through sure dint of hard work, Stricker straightened his way out of what had turned into a nightmare slump.
 
And suddenly now the 40-year-old Stricker finds himself poised to come all the way back from the cant miss label he earned 11 years ago when he won twice on TOUR, including a tour de force victory at the 1996 Western Open where he spent the week hitting medium and short irons into the par 5s and beating everybody in the field by eight shots.
 
Suddenly Steve Stricker finds himself poised to surge Sunday in the final round of the Open Championship if Sergio Garcia stumbles.
 
Garcia and Stricker will be the last twosome off at Carnoustie where the Spaniards lead is three over Stricker, whose lead over a group tied for third, is also three.
 
Until last year, Stricker had been down so long it looked like up thanks to injuries and the chronic wildness with the driver. He still gets emotional talking about it and those scars surfaced during a post-round interview.
 
This is part of my problem, Stricker said, fighting back tears. I need to get tougher on the inside.
 
The unassuming Stricker was plenty tough Saturday at Carnoustie where he spent just 23 putts while authoring a competitive course record of 7-under 64 which left him 6-under for the week. The 64 was one shot off the lowest score ever carded by anybody in a major championship anywhere.
 
Stricker birdied his first three holes and four of the first five en route to an outgoing 31. Stout par saves at Nos. 15 and 18 coming home kept his round bogey free. In his words, it was a clean card.
 
And it would have pushed him even closer to the lead if Garcia hadnt fashioned a clean card of his own to cement the 54-hole lead at 9-under. The previous lowest Open Championship rounds at Carnoustie were the 65s turned in by Garcia Thursday and Aussie Jack Newton in 1975.
 
A quick statistical check shows we shouldnt be surprised. Stricker entered the week ranked second in Rd. 3 scoring average on the PGA TOUR. He has also pushed his way up to No. 16 in the Official World Golf Ranking and 11th on the FedExCup point standings.
 
So how has Stricker done on Sundays this year?
 
His TOUR scoring rank is 64th in that category. Garcias is 38th.
 
Stricker has hit 31 of 45 fairways the first three rounds ands isnt afraid to unsheathe the driver any more. By comparison, two-time defending champion Tiger Woods has struggled off the tee and fought his swing all week. Woods trails Garcia by eight shots.
 
Ive still given myself a chance to win, Woods said after a Saturday 69.
 
But Strickers chances are better. He finished in the top 10 at the U.S. Open last year and was hanging around the top of the leaderboard late Sunday at Oakmont in last months U.S. Open.
 
Yes, Stricker still has self-doubts, a golfing character flaw Garcia has shown no signs of evidencing this week. But Garcia, who carries the hopes of Europe and the burden of having never won a major championship, will face more pressure.
 
If you have ever met Steve Stricker, you know why it is impossible not to like him personally. It was very difficult this week for him to skip his home game and fifth major'The U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee, an event he hadnt missed since 1990.
 
This is his first British Open since 2002.
 
But Steve Stricker is back. Hes back at the Open Championship. Back at the top of the leaderboard. And back from the depths.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - 136th Open Championship
     
    Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
  • Getty Images

    Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

    Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

    Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

    As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

    "That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

    Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

    Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

    Getty Images

    Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

    If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

    Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

    But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

    Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

    Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

    Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

    Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

    Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

    Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

    Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

    Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

    Getty Images

    Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

    Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

    “It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

    “What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

    Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

    “When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

    Getty Images

    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.