Life is good for Steve Stricker

By Jason SobelJuly 3, 2014, 7:13 pm

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – Life as a PGA Tour golfer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

OK, sure. You’re playing for millions of dollars every week. You’re featured on television. You’re famous. You have all the equipment at your disposal you could ever want. You drive around in pristine courtesy cars. You’re the object of envy from every guy in high school who poked fun at kids on the golf team.

Wait, what was the point again? Oh, right. Being a pro golfer is not always that great. There’s a lot of travel, often away from your family. If you don’t beat half the field, you don’t earn a paycheck. Injuries or swing problems or just plain bad luck can derail your career in a hurry.

So there you go: It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Unless you’re Steve Stricker, that is.

Then it’s even better than advertised.

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Stricker is working for just the eighth week this year – and yet he remains the world’s 18th-ranked player. He spends more time in deer hunting blinds than on driving ranges. He is “semi-retired,” but unlike most people in that position, he gets paid to play golf rather than the other way around.

What a life.

As if things couldn’t get much sweeter, Stricker decided only about 10 days ago that he’d play this week’s Greenbrier Classic. His regular caddie, Jimmy Johnson, was already committed to another player, so he asked his former looper to take the bag – his wife, Nicki. They brought their two kids, turned it into a sort of working vacation here at what’s been deemed PGA Tour Summer Camp and through one round his name is already on the leaderboard.

Stricker posted an opening-round bogey-free 4-under 66 to get himself into early contention.

“I haven’t played that much,” he said after the round, “but I’m starting to get into the groove of things a little bit more and starting to play a little bit better golf of late. So it’s an exciting time for me to start playing and play this week and next week and see what happens.”

What happens next is just another example of how good it is to be Stricker these days.

Prior to the first round, he maintained that he would play the upcoming Open Championship only if his game was getting hot at the right time. That’s right – whereas most of his peers are gearing up for the year’s third major championship, Stricker hasn’t even decided whether he’ll play or not.

He’s leaning toward the latter, though. Just 14 days from the opening round at Royal Liverpool, he doesn’t have a plane ticket or a hotel room and certainly hasn’t been working on his stinger off the tee.

“I was thinking if I play well, maybe sneak out a win in one of these two or have a couple of high finishes, the British Open was a possibility.”

Yes, despite being a part-time player and owning just a single top 10 this year and competing in only one of the previous four weeks and two of the previous six and three of the previous nine and four of the previous 13, he still came here thinking about a victory.

He insisted that it’s all about keeping the right mindset.

“You spend a lot of time at home practicing and the shots really don’t matter, you know what I mean?” he said. “You can hit one offline and you’re like, it doesn’t mean anything. Then when you come out here, every shot means something. You’ve got to try and erase that out of your mind and do what you do at home when you’re practicing. So that, I think, is the challenge. You’re playing for keeps. Everything counts.”

So far, so good for Stricker.

Then again, when you rarely play competitive golf and can still go out and get your name on the leaderboard, that’s a familiar refrain.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.