Not Your Average Bear

By Jason SobelJune 6, 2011, 2:50 am

DUBLIN, Ohio – Steve Stricker is a proven winner, with six PGA Tour wins since the beginning of the 2009 season, including a triumph at the Memorial Tournament this week.

He’s the No. 4-ranked golfer in the world and the top-ranked American player, higher than any of the single-named studs.

He’s an exciting player – despite his reputation – as evidenced by multiple eagles, a bevy of birdies and more par saves than the average 'Bear' at Muirfield Village.

He’s emotional, never failing to shed a few tears after his victories.

He’s the quintessential nice guy. He’s a family man. He’s humble.

All of which leads to one burning question: Why isn’t Steve Stricker a bigger superstar?

Don’t mistake that query as an insinuation that he lacks talent. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. He is such an elite-level player that it’s a quandary as to why he doesn’t own a larger Q-rating.

The truth is, all of those aforementioned reasons why Stricker isn’t the prototypical superstar are really what should propel him to such status. Nobody dislikes him, from fellow players to fans. Nobody roots against him. Nobody isn’t happy for the guy when he prevails over the field.

And yet, it still has the feel of David overcoming a group of Goliaths every time Stricker wins a title.

Shouldn’t everything that makes him a fan favorite also qualify him as not only one of the biggest names in the game, but the type of guy who can’t even go out in public without getting mobbed? Different people have different takes on why this hasn’t happened – and probably never will.

Just ask his caddie, who spends time with him away from the golf course and rarely sees their plans interrupted.

“He looks a little different at night, off the golf course, when he has his hat off,” Jimmy Johnson explained. “Let’s just say he’s a little thin on top.”

Just ask his fellow competitors, who maintain they have nothing but the utmost respect for the guy they call “Stricks.”

“Maybe it has to do with the media coverage,” said Matt Kuchar, who finished in a share of second place this week. “I just don’t know if steady players are that exciting. I mean, Tom Kite probably wasn’t the most exciting player in the world, but what he did worked, just like Steve. I would imagine Steve likes it just the way it is, too.”

“Steve is kind of a humble guy. He's a Midwest guy. That's his personality,” said Brandt Jobe, who shared runner-up honors with Kuchar. “He's one of the few guys that's won a lot of times that still sheds a tear when he wins. I think Steve is Steve. He's very down-to-earth and I don't think he draws attention to himself. Not that it's negative or positive, but I think he kind of enjoys the way things are and he's playing great.”

Then there’s tournament host Jack Nicklaus, who believes Stricker really is a superstar, even if it’s for different reasons than other players.

“I think he's a superstar in more ways than his golf game,” Nicklaus said. “I think he's been a superstar from the way he's behaved himself, the way he handles his game, the way he handles people and the way he handles fans. He's always done that and that to me is equally as important as how well you score. I've always felt that about Steve.”

See? Maybe superstars don’t have to have cool names. Maybe they don’t have to have an entourage. Or a fleet of expensive sportscars. Or an attitude.

Maybe superstars can simply be superstars because they’re among the best in the world at what they do. Because they’re genuine and unassuming and thoughtful. Because success means more to them than the flashier guys and they never take it for granted.

Maybe Stricker is the new breed of superstar. The kind who doesn’t pound his chest or sport any bling. The kind who appreciates the fan support and isn’t considered a villain by any of ‘em.

Most of all, maybe Stricker is a superstar for one major reason: He doesn’t think he is.

“No, I don't,” he said. “I've been up to No. 2 in the world, and I just go about my own business. I don't look at myself any differently.  I just go out and play, you know, and I try to play well. And I'm on a great run these last five or six years and I just want to continue it.”

An elite world ranking. Great play. A sincere attitude.

All of it makes Steve Stricker is one of the game’s biggest superstars after all. Whether he likes it or not.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.