Stricker busy as ever on limited schedule

By Doug FergusonMarch 12, 2013, 10:47 pm

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Steve Stricker is in semi-retirement from the PGA Tour, though it sure doesn't feel that way to him.

Consider the 48 hours since his runner-up finish at Doral.

Stricker had to film an Avis commercial in Los Angeles the next day. When he booked his travel plans, he wasn't aware the final round would end an hour later because of Daylight Savings Time, so he missed his flight. Phil Mickelson offered him a ride on his plane to San Diego, and Stricker took a charter up the coast. He finally got home to Wisconsin at 2 a.m. Tuesday, and then woke up to take his daughters to school before heading off to a meeting with his foundation until the girls got out of school.

He chuckled when talking about a text from caddie Jimmy Johnson that said, ''What are you up to?''

''I feel like I'm busier now than when I played a regular schedule,'' Stricker said. ''But it's all good. I'm doing a lot of things around home with the family, and with what (wife) Nicki and I are doing with the foundation. I'll go to the grocery store with Nicki. And there's still time to do some fun things.''

Deer hunting is done, but Stricker was quick to point out that coyote season is still open. He's thinking about driving down to Chicago one day this week to watch the Big 10 men's basketball tournament.

As for his golf? Not bad for a part-time player.

In three starts this year, he has made $1.82 million and is No. 4 on the money list. He has gone up 10 spots to No. 8 in the world ranking. Stricker was the runner-up at Kapalua and Doral, and he reached the quarterfinals of the Match Play Championship.

He is doing more with less.

And along the way, his profile is as high as it has ever been.

He already was considered as nice a person as there is on the PGA Tour, mainly for his good manners and how he treats people. His father-in-law, Dennis Tiziani, summed it up a few years ago when he said Stricker was ''as considerate talking to a big executive on Tour as he was to the guy working in Aisle 4 at the Home Depot.''

And now he is jokingly referred to as the part-time putting guru of Tiger Woods.

Their meeting Wednesday afternoon at Doral was a planned accident. Woods had wanted to play a practice round with Stricker on the eve of the tournament, but Woods didn't arrive until early afternoon and couldn't find him. It was only after Woods played nine holes and finished his media duties that he saw Stricker on the putting green.

Stricker is humble enough not to help unless asked. He has given Woods a few tips over the years, such as the Presidents Cup in 2011, and they often exchange text messages or chat about the art of putting. This was the longest session, and the most meaningful.

He noticed that Woods had his hands behind the ball and his posture was out of sync, probably from working so much on his long game and the recent hours Woods had spent chipping. Woods walked away feeling as good as he did at Torrey Pines, where he won by four shots. Over the next four days at Doral, he had his fewest number of putts (100) ever on the PGA Tour, made 27 birdies and won by two shots – over Stricker, no less.

Stricker said he told Woods after they finished that session, ''If you put me on your payroll, I could play a little bit less.''

He was genuinely happy to hear that Woods had putted well in the opening round, and the feeling didn't change when Woods finished two shots ahead of him.

Stricker noticed more than just a putting stroke that was back to where it should be.

''His attitude, and what I saw this week, and his belief in himself again looks very similar to where he was in the early 2000s – or you can pick any year, I guess when he was playing great,'' Stricker said. ''Yeah, he just seems in a better place mentally to me. He seems to be having fun. Seems to have a lot of confidence in himself and his game. And that's fun to see.''

Everyone has more fun when they're making putts.

''Now I know how he feels every day,'' Woods said of Stricker. ''No wonder he's always in a good mood.''

Woods is in a good spot with two wins before The Masters. Stricker is in a good spot because he's playing less and looks as good as ever.

''I'm really excited what I'm doing this year,'' Stricker said Tuesday. ''I can tell by my demeanor on the golf course.''

He probably should have done this a few years ago. He felt he owed it to his sponsors to play a full schedule, and he was thrilled when he realized they were on board with him cutting back this year. Even then, he was concerned that he would be criticized by golf fans for not playing as much.

The original plan was to defend his title at Kapalua and walk away. Over the holidays, he struck a compromise of 10 or 11 events.

''What I told Nicki was if I could just make enough money to pay our yearly expenses as a family, I'm fine with that,'' Stricker said at Kapalua. ''If we don't have to touch anything I've put away, I don't need to do what I'm doing just to make money. I'd rather be staying home, doing things at home.

''I wanted to not have it be about me anymore.''

That's what he's doing, and he's making it work beyond his own expectations. He is playing good golf. He has plenty of time for his family.

And he even has time for Woods.

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.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

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.”


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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.''