Leading man

By Randall MellAugust 11, 2011, 9:30 pm

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Steve Stricker grimaced tapping in his final putt for a record-tying 63 Thursday at the PGA Championship.

He grimaced again a moment later when his caddie, Jimmy Johnson, told him the 10-foot birdie chance he just missed would have given him the lowest 18-hole score ever shot in a major championship.

“I kind of wish I would have known it was for history,” Stricker said after coming out of the scoring trailer at Atlanta Athletic Club.

It seemed as if everyone knew that last putt was for the first-ever 62 in a major except Stricker.

“I was keeping the scorecard nice and neat for him,” Paul Casey said. “Damn.”

Casey is trying to beat Stricker this week, but he still couldn’t help hoping he was documenting history. Casey couldn’t help admiring Stricker’s scorecard as he scribbled numbers through the round. Seven birdies and no bogeys marked the 25th time a player shot 63 in a major championship and the 11th time in the PGA Championship.

“And he missed three putts from 8 feet or less,” Casey said. “Very impressive.”

Stricker, 44, knew he was putting for a 62, he just didn’t know that nobody had ever shot that score in a major.

“I didn’t put two and two together,” Stricker said.

Ultimately, Stricker didn’t want to make a big deal of a score posted in the first round of the year’s final major. Of all those 63s shot in majors, only five led to major championship victories.

“It’s a good start, that’s all it is,” Stricker said.

It’s a good start toward gaining Stricker a prize that’s eluded him despite being the highest ranked American at No. 5 in the world rankings. Stricker’s 0 for 52 trying to win majors. The closest he’s ever come was his second-place finish to Vijay Singh at the PGA Championship at Sahalee in ’98.

Six and seven years ago, Stricker was a journeyman struggling to win back his PGA Tour playing privileges. With a major swing overhaul, he improved his wayward driving, improved his iron play. With one of the best putting strokes in the game, one of the best wedge games, too, Stricker’s become a total player.

Watching Stricker piece together all the facets of his game, Tour brethren sound as if they’ve been waiting for a major moment like this.

Stricker is first in actual scoring (69.15) on the PGA Tour this year, first in birdie average and first in putting (strokes gained). He’s won twice this season, seven times in the last three seasons. His finish winning the John Deere Classic last month, when he made a spectacular birdie with a dazzling escape from a fairway bunker at the last hole, proved something to fellow pros about Stricker’s improving nerve under pressure.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run away with this,” said Stewart Cink, winner of the 2009 British Open.

Should Stricker ride this run out, it would be a popular victory even outside the state of Wisconsin, where Stricker resides.

“Steve is quiet and shy, but his game does all the talking,” Cink said. “He’s not a Type-A personality, but his game is Type A-Plus.”

How popular is Stricker in Badgerland? It seems as if the folks from Wisconsin will forgive him for anything. Stricker went to the University of Illinois and roots for the Chicago Bears. Still, he’s beloved in the land of bubbling cheese pits and malt-and-barley lakes.

Stricker’s leading a Wisconsin charge on the leaderboard. Jerry Kelly, who like Stricker resides in Madison, Wis., was solo second after the morning wave, two shots behind Stricker, his good friend.

With Stricker being asked by international media what it was like to shoot a 63, Kelly popped open a door aside the stage.

“Hey, where are we going for dinner tonight?” Kelly bellowed.

Kelly saw more of Stricker’s career struggles than any other Tour pro. He knows more than most how hard Stricker worked to win PGA Tour Comeback Player of the Year not just once, but two years in a row.

“Steve surprised everyone,” Kelly said. “But now it’s not surprising. Now, it’s ‘Oh, there’s Steve, look out.’”

Cink said Stricker’s swing ought to be a model for up-and-coming Tour pros even though he’s not a power player. Stricker averaged just 280 yards driving in the first round.

“Guys who hit it long, people say they’re the future of the game,” Cink said. “Steve Stricker is the future of the way the game ought to be played.

“There’s no wasted effort. His swing matches up with technology. His club stays square a long time through the hitting area.”

The real test for Stricker now, as it always is when he’s in the hunt, will be controlling his emotions. He’s cried after more than one victory. When he took the stage to accept the Golf Writers Association of America’s Jim Murray Award for his work with the media in April, the presenter good naturedly handed him a box of tissues. Stricker got a big laugh when he spiked the tissue box in mock displeasure.

“We’d all love to win a major, I’m no different,” Stricker said. “I try extremely hard at majors, but I’ve probably tried a little less harder the last few years than I had earlier in my career. That’s my game, my nature the last few years.

“I come here with expectations to play well, but not that added extra pressure that I have to play well.”

The formula is working so far, but Stricker would love to give it the ultimate test come Sunday.

Getty Images

Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...

2017 Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.