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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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm