Stricker back on U.S. team, seeks Ryder redemption

By Jason SobelOctober 2, 2013, 4:06 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Steve Stricker was done. He knew it. His career in team competitions had come to this unceremonious completion, leaving Medinah Country Club teary-eyed and winless, his name on the short list of those receiving the most blame for the United States’ final-day collapse at the Ryder Cup.

At 45, he was already starting to look ahead. He wanted to spend more time with his family back home in Wisconsin, which meant competing in fewer tournaments, which meant it would be even tougher to play his way onto a U.S. team. Not impossible, but tougher.

You could almost hear the resignation in his voice. Not long after Stricker lost the deciding singles match to Martin Kaymer, cementing a 0-4-0 record for the week, he was asked about the prospect of competing on another team in the future.

“We'll see,” he said wistfully, his words trailing off. “It's too early to tell right now.”

Fast forward one year and you’ll find Stricker wearing red, white and blue once again, this time anchored by an optimistic smile on the eve of competing for the U.S. team once again here at the Presidents Cup.

As it turns out, he wasn’t done after all.

Playing a limited schedule – “semi-retirement,” he called it – Stricker competed in just 13 events, but posted eight top-10s, including four runner-up finishes. Some players need to compete often in order to get into a rhythm; Stricker, it seems, fares better when he’s rested. The very schedule he believed would preclude him from making the team instead elevated him up the points list and onto the roster.

If the feel-good story of this year’s event is to remain a feel-good story on Sunday evening, though, Stricker will need to play better than he did last year. He might never be able to avenge that performance, but he can use it as motivation this week.

“I'm always going to look back at Medinah and think about what happened there that last day and that we didn't get it done,” he explains. “In particular, me. Not making it, not earning a point that whole week. Yeah, it's a sour note, but in this game you have a lot of sour notes and you've got to move forward otherwise you bog yourself down and you never improve.”

His captain understands every word of that.

“Well, we spoke Sunday night at the Ryder Cup,” says Fred Couples, who served as an assistant on that team. “I've texted Steve 20 times a month and tell him all kind of stuff – how great he's doing, how great he's playing. He's one of my all-time favorites. 

“To be honest with you, when he set his schedule, he had a long road to hoe to get here, but he's played such phenomenal golf that he made the team, deserves to be on the team and is actually maybe more excited than anyone but [rookie] Jordan [Spieth]. And that's a good thing.”

There is a palpable yet intangible difference between the two biennial international team competitions. While there is no perfect way to explain how the Ryder Cup contrasts from the Presidents Cup, this should help: One year after the so-called Massacre at Medinah, it still weighs heavily on the minds of U.S. players.

It never happens the other way around – and not just because the team wins the Presidents Cup every year.

Memories of last year’s loss still linger, but this week will give players like Stricker – one of nine to return from that team – an opportunity to leave a more positive lasting impression.

“Yeah, the Ryder Cup last year left a sour taste in all our mouths, I think. Just the way that played out, the way it ended, none of us were very happy about it,” he says. “I think because of my reduced schedule, playing less, I didn't really think I was going to have enough tournaments under my belt to qualify for the team. So I'm a little surprised being here, but I'm happy I'm here.”

Steve Stricker isn’t done. He knows it. His career in team competitions won’t come to completion at Muirfield Village this week.

At least that’s the way he’s looking at it.

Unlike last year, there is no resignation in his voice.

“I would still like to think I've got a shot at making the Ryder Cup next year, especially the way I'm playing, and if I can continue to play the way I've been playing. I would like to be a part of that again,” he explains. “It would be nice to get one more crack at that.”

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.