Stricker wins Northern Trust moves to No 2

By Doug FergusonFebruary 8, 2010, 4:05 am
Northern Trust Open

LOS ANGELES – Each victory is a reminder how far Steve Stricker has come in four years, when he lost his PGA Tour card and plunged to No. 337 in the world ranking.

His latest PGA Tour title – the fourth in his last 15 tournaments – raised questions about how much higher he can go.

Stricker won the Northern Trust Open on Sunday, just like everyone expected, even though Stricker might have been the only one who expected a six-shot lead to be so difficult to protect. His lead dwindled to two shots in a span of five holes, and only after Stricker made a 10-foot par putt on the 15th hole did he breathe easy.

Steve Stricker
Steve Stricker celebrates his fourth PGA Tour win in less than a year. (Getty Images)

“It was a challenge, to say the least,” Stricker said after closing with a 1-under 70 for a two-shot victory over Luke Donald.

The victory moved him to No. 2 in the world for the second time in his career. He also got there in September after winning on the TPC Boston, but that was when Tiger Woods was still around.

Now, Stricker effectively is the highest-ranked player who is competing until Woods returns from his self-imposed break while he tries to salvage his marriage from his extramarital affairs.

Stricker, as humble as his Midwestern roots, knows his place.

“We all know who the best player in the world is,” Stricker said. “I went down that road when he came out on tour. I tried to compare my game to his back in ’96 or ’97, and there was no comparison for my game to his back then. I’ll just continue to do what I do, and that’s practice hard and work at it and try to improve.”

That’s what he did after losing his card and failing Q-school at the end of 2005, cutting out the side wall of a trailer to hit balls into a patch of snow on a Wisconsin golf course. Just look at where it has brought him.

Two Presidents Cup teams. One Ryder Cup team. Earnings approaching $17 million since he lost his card. No. 2 in the world.

Is the comeback complete?

“Good question,” Stricker said. “I don’t know. One of my goals trying to come back was to obviously get my game in order and to win again, and I’ve done that. I hate to say the word ‘complete’ because I feel like I still have things to do. I came back from one part of my career that wasn’t so good to where I’m at now. But I still want to continue.

“I don’t want to quit what I’m doing, and I still work very hard at it.”

For a while, it looked as though Stricker might need a comeback to win at Riviera, a scary thought considering he started with a six-shot lead over Donald and J.B. Holmes.

The last time Stricker had such a big lead going into the last round was at the 1996 Western Open, and he went on to win by eight. That was too long ago to remember.

He felt defensive on the opening hole, the easiest at Riviera. The shot called for a 5-iron at the flag, yet Stricker wanted to be extra sure that he cleared the bunker, so he opted for a 4-iron that went into the rough behind the green. An easy birdie turned into a par.

He didn’t reach the second green, played away from the flag at No. 3, came up short at No. 4 and missed a 5-foot par putt.

“If I don’t win the tournament, you’re going to be looked upon as the guy that didn’t finish it off,” Stricker said. “Those thoughts run through your head, and the guys from behind, they have nothing to lose.”

Donald had his chances.

As Stricker was playing away from flags, Donald was aiming at them. He had birdie chances inside 20 feet on his first eight holes, converting three of them to cut the lead to two shots. Then came a tee shot to 10 feet on the six, and to 8 feet on the seventh, yet Donald missed both putts that could have really made Stricker sweat.

“If I got really hot with the putter, I could have maybe caught Steve,” said Donald, who closed with a 66. “He played nicely coming down the stretch, and I think he was a deserved winner. But at least I gave him a little run for his money.”

Stricker completed his third round with a 66 on Sunday morning of the rain-delayed event and was at 15-under 198. He was another good round away from matching the tournament record of 20-under 264 set in 1985 by Lanny Wadkins, the oldest scoring record at a PGA Tour event held at the same golf course.

Before long, he was worried about matching a PGA Tour record for blowing a six-shot lead, the largest ever (by Sergio Garcia at Quail Hollow in 2005 and Greg Norman at the Masters in 1996).

Alas, Stricker answered with back-to-back birdies at the turn, another birdie at the 11th after Donald holed a bunker shot, and suddenly, his lead was back to four shots. And then came more cautious play.

Only after he made the 10-foot par putt on the 15th did Stricker feel safe.

“My father-in-law always says there’s a defining moment when you’re going to win a golf tournament,” Stricker said. “And I think that was it right there. It allowed me to keep a three-shot lead going into the last three holes.”

Holmes shot a 67 and tied for third with Dustin Johnson, who had a 66.

Two-time defending champion Phil Mickelson didn’t come close in his bid to become the first player to win three straight years at Riviera. He closed with a 73 to finish 14 shots behind, and wound up slipping to No. 3 behind Stricker.

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.