Stricker the boring, winning type

By Jason SobelJanuary 10, 2012, 3:00 am

Steve Stricker isn’t very exciting.

Debate this notion if you must, but even Stricker himself would concede that he’s vanilla in a world of flavor, soft rock in a land of hip-hop.

The bigger question is: Why? 

I’ve spent more hours than I’d like to admit trying to figure it out. I mean, Stricker doesn’t do anything differently than any of the so-called exciting elite golfers out there. He swings the club, hits the ball, walks after it and hits it again. Just like everybody else.

OK, so there are a few differences. He doesn’t hit 400-yard rain-makers like Bubba Watson. Doesn’t exuberantly pump his fist after birdies like Tiger Woods. Doesn’t have a cool name like Rory McIlroy.

Nope, none of those. Instead, all Stricker does is win tournaments and retain his lofty status on the Official World Golf Ranking.

What a boring guy.

It happened once again at this week’s season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Stricker jumped out to a second-round lead and never trailed, earning his 12th career title and eighth in the last four years – more than any other competitor – while ascending to fifth in the world.

The team weighs in: What We Learned from the Hyundai TOC

The victory wasn’t without its share of drama, though. Stricker entered Monday’s final round with a five-stroke advantage, but saw that dwindle to a single shot before he reached the eighth hole.  From there, he was able to hold off challengers Jonathan Byrd, Martin Laird and Webb Simpson

Even so, Stricker’s win – and Stricker himself – will likely be defined less as exciting than workmanlike.

That’s OK, though. In today’s sporting landscape, workmanlike works.

Think about it. You need only review last year’s NBA Finals, when the team-oriented Dallas Mavericks defeated the much-ballyhooed superstar-laden Miami Heat squad. It was hardly the first instance of substance over style and it certainly won’t be the last.

Don’t confuse Stricker’s lack of excitement for a lack of reasons to root for him. In fact, he’s an eminently likeable guy. A salt-of-the-earth type who still resides in his hometown of Madison, Wisc., even though the winters can usually be described as the antithesis of Kapalua.

He’s a good family man. Sure, most players bring their wife and children to Maui. And most would have them walking along if they were winning, ready for hugs on the final green. Stricker’s devotion to his family goes beyond that. In a taped segment during the final-round telecast, he broke down crying when talking about the importance of being a good father.

He’s emotional. If the taped tears weren’t enough on Monday, the live ones flowed as soon as the final putt dropped. Stricker may not have cried after each one of his dozen career victories, but he certainly has for the majority of them.

He’s getting better with age. Stricker will turn 45 next month, but continues improving with each year that goes by. Here’s the most telling statistic of his career: In his first 348 starts, he won four times; in his last 50 starts, he’s won eight times. It was that experience that he said helped him weather the storm when the lead had waned.

“I had good feelings coming out today. My swing felt good,” Stricker said after posting a final-round 4-under 69. “It was just harder to get the ball in the hole. I don't know if this win would have happened if I was a lot younger. Being out here a few years and experiencing the things I've experienced, it made it a little bit easier to hang in there.

“Obviously I changed my game and my swing. I have a lot more confidence nowadays than I ever had when I was younger. I have a better idea of what I'm doing with my swing and where the ball is going. I guess I put it all together as I got older and got to where I feel good about it.”

Stricker’s story is one of motivation and determination. One that has seen its share of peaks and valleys, one that can now be qualified as an ultimate success story, no matter what the future holds.

That may not be the most exciting story in golf, but Stricker is fine with that. He’ll just keep collecting trophies instead.

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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.