Stricker scaling way back on events in 2013

By Doug FergusonJanuary 3, 2013, 8:32 pm

KAPALUA, Hawaii – At the end of another long year, and only a month away from the start of another season, Steve Stricker quietly posed a question that sounded out of place for a guy with more than $25 million in PGA Tour earnings over the last six years.

''What if I went to Kapalua to defend and didn't play again the rest of the year?''

When he arrived on the shores of Maui for the season-opening Tournament of Champions, he had reached a compromise. Stricker, who turns 46 next month, is going into semi-retirement. When he leaves Kapalua, he won't return again until the Match Play Championship at the end of February.


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He'll play the majors and World Golf Championships that are held in America, maybe a few other tournaments to get ready for the majors, and the John Deere Classic, which has become his hometown event ever since the Greater Milwaukee Open went away.

''I've proved to myself I could come back,'' said Stricker, once mired in a slump so severe he was voted PGA Tour comeback player - two years in a row. ''I had a great run the last six years. I think it's just the travel, the time away. When I get home, I'm not there. I'm focused on where I go next. When I do something, I'm in it. I've had enough of being totally focused on golf and my life. And I wanted to not have it be about me anymore.''

Stricker is wired differently from most. He gets as much pleasure taking his kids to school in Wisconsin as winning golf tournaments. He would rather spend his fall in a deer stand with a bow than on the practice green with his putter.

He has been thinking about cutting back for the last few years, only the decision was never easy. Not when he was as high as No. 2 in the world, a regular on U.S. teams in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup.

Even with some winter stubble after nine holes of practice on the Plantation Course at Kapalua, he looked fresh and ready to go.

''I'm excited about the year because I finally made this decision to scale back,'' he said. ''You know me. I've been this way since Day One. I've never played a lot. I enjoy my time at home, and I've tossed around this idea with my family the last couple of years. Finally making a decision to scale back has lifted a little bit of a burden from me. I'm just as excited to play this week as I've ever been.''

Stricker won the Tournament of Champions a year ago for his 12th career win, although that turned out to be the highlight of his year. In one of the more peculiar trends, he became the third straight player to win the PGA Tour's opener and not win again the rest of the year.

He faces a 30-man field of PGA Tour winners that is missing some of the top stars, no longer unusual in this global landscape of golf with Europeans competing deep into November, and some international players, such as Ernie Els, starting next week in South Africa. Among those absent from Kapalua are Rory McIlroyTiger Woods, Luke Donald and Justin Rose, the top four players in the world ranking.

Stricker won't see many of them until he gets to Arizona for the Match Play Championship.

At least he's not walking away entirely. Over the last few weeks, he looked at the schedule and didn't feel he could miss the big events, particularly the majors. He hasn't set a number of events he wants to play, but it will be somewhere around 10.

What to do with all that free time? It won't be limited to a car pool or a deer stand. Stricker is forming a foundation with a new sponsor, American Family Insurance, with the goal of helping adolescents. The seed money comes from the charity donation he received for winning the Payne Stewart Award and playing on the Ryder Cup team.

His other sponsors – Titleist, Avis and the New York Stock Exchange – are behind his decision to cut back. Stricker has restructured his endorsement deals because he is playing less, and he plans to do more personal days with clients.

''I was prepared to lose all that, I really was,'' Stricker said. ''For the most part, they're happy for me.''

He still hasn't talked to PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. Stricker is one of the most popular figures on Tour because of the way he treats people. For now, this semi-retirement does not include The Players Championship or even the FedEx Cup playoffs, even if he has a reasonable shot at the $10 million bonus.

He would play the Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup if he qualifies. With his limited schedule, he would be playing some good golf.

And yes, he'll still practice. His 14-year-old daughter, Bobbi Maria, is a natural athlete who is getting into golf. There were a few times last year she wanted to go to the golf course with his dad, but Stricker feared he wouldn't get any work done on his game.

''Now I can put in some time with her,'' Stricker said. ''She's talked about hitting more balls in the winter. I can spend more time with her doing that, and playing with her in the summer if she wants to.''

The strongest part of her game? Stricker smiled.

''She putts good,'' he said.

Part of Stricker wishes he had done this sooner, but the time didn't seem right. He would emerge from his fall break to play in the World Challenge hosted by Tiger Woods, and then Greg Norman's Shootout in Florida, and he found himself not wanting to leave.

''The coolest part is I'm playing as good as I ever have,'' Stricker said. ''I've accomplished a lot of things. I proved to myself I can come back from where I was and I played great for an extended period of time. The major thing is missing, but that's not hugely important to me. I don't have to win a major. Obviously, I'd love to. But it's not going to define who I am. It's all good. I feel like I'm doing this for the right reason.

''I felt like it would be a bold move a couple of years ago, and I think it's a bold move now,'' he said. ''Some people might think it's not a good idea. But I think it is for me.''

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

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The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


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Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."