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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The Social: G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T.

By Jason CrookJanuary 23, 2018, 6:00 pm

Tom Brady compares himself to Tiger Woods, who coincidentally is returning to the PGA Tour this week, Jordan Spieth hangs out with some decent company and kids these days ruffle some feathers with their friendships.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Well, it’s finally Farmers Insurance Open week and Woods has been spotted practicing for his official return to the PGA Tour on Thursday.

Some thought this day might never come after a 2017 filled with mostly downs for the 14-time major champ.

But as he has taught the golf world time and time again, you just can't count Tiger out.

So even as Jon Rahm attempts to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world this week at Torrey Pines, all eyes will be on one of the greatest we've ever seen do it, even if that guy is ranked No. 647 in the world.

Speaking of greatness …

There’s not many who can just offhandedly compare themselves to Tiger, but if anyone gets a pass, it’s Tom Brady.

The 40-year-old New England Patriots quarterback led his team back to the Super Bowl for the second straight year despite playing the AFC title game with a cut on his throwing hand.

When asked about it after the Patriots come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady answered, “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”

So there you have it. A 40-year-old Brady is winning AFC Championships with his C game. Good luck, Eagles; you’re going to need it.

Also, if for some reason you wanted an update on Justin Thomas' life, it's still awesome:

Yeah, that's last year's PGA Tour Player of the Year hanging with Cy Young winner Cory Kluber in a suite at the Patriots game and teasing us with a possible #SB2K18 cameo.

Curtis Strange likes his competitive golf straight up, hold the friendliness.

This, according to Curtis Strange.

The two-time U.S. Open champ took to Twitter during the CareerBuilder Challenge to vent his frustration regarding the constant chit-chat and friendliness between Rahm and Andrew Landry:

This, of course, makes sense in theory. But good luck watching golf – or really any sport – from here on out. Sure there will be a few old school guys who buck the trend here and there, but for the most part, it’s really hard to share a private jet/dinners/vacations/(insert awesome thing here) with someone, and then completely turn off the friendship coming down the stretch of a big tournament.

Damn millennials. They ruin everything.

By now you've all seen that poor Philadelphia Eagles fan who lost his battle with a subway station pillar (from multiple angles), so instead here is a video of a man attempting to stand on an egg. Bet you can't guess how that goes.

Tony's gonna stand on an egg

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Seriously if you haven't seen the video of that Eagles fan, here's your last chance in this column. You'll be glad you did.

Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps and Bryce Harper walk on to a golf course … there’s no punchline, that actually happened last week in Las Vegas.

Was the whole thing just a big advertisement for Spieth’s new Under Armour shoe? You bet.

But that doesn’t make the optics of three of the biggest superstar athletes on the planet teeing it up for a round any less awesome.

Off to the next. #Spieth2 #TEAMUA

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The trio has three major wins, five All Star Game appearances and 28 Olympic medals between them, and there they were over the weekend just fake laughing for the camera and driving around individual golf carts with their own personalized logos on them.

Just guys being dudes. Nothing better than that.

Matt Kuchar. Still good at golf. Still overly polite. This according to European Tour pro Eddie Pepperell who had the privilege of hitting on the range next to Kuuuuuch in Abu Dhabi last week.

That image is burned into your brain forever now, thanks Eddie. From now on when you think of Kuchar you're going to think of those Sketches ads and "oopsies."

Which, I suppose is better than a, "Did you get that?"

Blayne Barber's caddie, Cory Gilmer, collapsed and hit his head while at a restaurant at the Sony Open and has been mostly unconscious in the neurological intensive care unit ever since.

The outpouring of love and support from the golf community has been overwhelming on social media, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the mounting medical costs for Gilmer and his family.

Check out the link below for more info or to donate to a worthy cause:

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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.

Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

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Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right. Click here if you are trying to view Tiger Tracker on the Golf Channel mobile app.)