Stricker's winning formula: 'I just do what I do'

By Doug FergusonJanuary 10, 2012, 10:42 pm

KAPALUA, Hawaii - Mention the best American golfers and Steve Stricker is on everyone’s list, just as he was 15 years ago.

The difference is that he bought into it back then.

Now he doesn’t care.

He was the highest-ranked American in the field at Kapalua, where the no-show list of 11 players included three major champions. Stricker was asked at the start of the week if he saw himself as the main headliner. He smiled sheepishly and said, “No.”

“There’s nobody I would rather watch play golf than Steve Stricker, personally, as a fan,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said on Sunday as Stricker was leading by five shots in the third round.

When this was mentioned to Stricker, someone jokingly suggested that Finchem was sipping a Mai Tai when he said it.

“Was he drunk?” Stricker said with a laugh.

Stricker won the Tournament of Champions by three shots on Monday. It was his eighth win in his last 50 tournaments, the highest winning rate of anyone on the PGA Tour in that span. Martin Laird, the runner-up, called Stricker the most underrated player in golf.

His reaction? Another smile.

“You’re asking the wrong guy,” Stricker said.

Winning for the 12th time in his career was special, along with telling his family they get to come back to Maui next year. Having his two daughters greet him with a hug on the 18th green made it even sweeter. The plaudits? The world ranking? Trying to assess where he belong among a global lineup of stars?

It no longer matters to him.

What defines Stricker is what caddie Jimmy Johnson says to him whenever he needs a pep talk.

“Do what you do.”

“I think that sums it up the best,” Stricker said. “We just go about and do our thing. It may not be the flashiest thing at times, but I do other things well. I chip and putt well. I’m driving the ball well. Everybody has got a little bit different game, and that’s the way I look at mine. Do the things that we know how to do the best.”

It wasn’t always that way.

Just when he was starting to hit his stride, Stricker looked around and started to wonder if he was good enough.

“I tried to compare myself to guys when I was playing well back in the mid-90s, and I got into some bad things,” he said.

One of those guys was Tiger Woods.

Stricker was regarded as one of the rising Americans in 1996, when he broke through by winning the Kemper Open and the Western Open and finished at No. 4 on the money list. A few months later, Woods turned pro and won twice in seven starts.

When he arrived at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am the following February, Stricker was at No. 13 in the world ranking. Woods was one spot behind at No. 14. Phil Mickelson was No. 7, the highest of American golfers in their 20s.

Stricker was paired with Woods for three rounds—Stricker had sportscaster Bryant Gumbel as an amateur partner, Woods had actor Kevin Costner. Stricker didn’t make it to Sunday, tying for 66th. Woods was runner-up to Mark O’Meara.

Stricker left the Monterey Peninsula feeling inadequate.

“We were paired together at Pebble Beach, and I walked away from there feeling my game was not anywhere close to him. And it wasn’t,” Stricker said. “He’s probably done that to other players, too, don’t you think? I just didn’t think I had the skills or ability he had. But I’m OK with it now.”

That was the beginning of what once looked like the end.

Stricker traveled too much in the offseason after his banner year, going to South Africa and Scotland. He typically spends a long offseason home in Wisconsin, and when he returned to golf, it felt more like work than pleasure.

He also took advantage of his success by signing lucrative deals with equipment companies, which added to his troubles. And then came the pairing with Woods at Pebble Beach.

Stricker plunged to No. 130 on the money list that year, recovered briefly in 1998 when he had a back-nine duel with Vijay Singh at Sahalee in the PGA Championship, the big Fijian’s first major.

There also was a brief return in 2001 when Stricker, who was No. 90 in the world, got into the Match Play Championship in Australia because more than two dozen players ahead of him decided not to play. Stricker wound up winning, beating Ryder Cup players Padraig Harrington and Justin Leonard in the opening two rounds.

And then came the abyss that nearly ended his career, when he lost his PGA Tour card and only pulled himself out by hitting balls out of a three-sided trailer in Wisconsin to a driving range covered in snow.

Why the downfall?

“Some of it was seeing the ability Tiger had,” Stricker said. “Then I started trying different things, different equipment. And I played a ton of golf in the fall. I didn’t get away from the game. As you know, you have to be fresh. You have to want to be out there.”

What a renaissance this has been.

Stricker won The Barclays in 2007, the first FedEx Cup playoff event. He won three times in 2009, twice more in 2010 and 2011, and started the 2012 season with yet another trophy. He has risen as high as No. 2 in the world. When he won the Deutsche Bank Championship in 2009, it was his first win with Woods in the field.

It’s different now.

He was paired with Woods at the start of every playoff event in 2009. They were represented by the same agent (Mark Steinberg) for years, but never were particularly close until that year. Stricker still noticed a difference in their ability. But he knew he was capable of good golf himself.

“I had built up some confidence, and I wasn’t worried about what he thought, or how I played with him,” Stricker said. “Then we started getting paired together, and then were partners in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup. And we became … well, we are friends. And now, it’s like going out to play with my friend. I don’t care about that stuff anymore.

“I just do what I do.”

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

Getty Images

Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

Getty Images

Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.