Quick Round with Steve Stricker

By Randall MellDecember 13, 2009, 4:42 am

NAPLES, Fla. – These are terrific times for Steve Stricker.

As a PGA Tour pro, he’s climbing to thrilling heights he’s never known before.

At 42, his game’s never been better.

These are sad times, too.

Stricker has forged a friendship with Tiger Woods over the past few years, a bond that prompted Woods to ask for Stricker as his partner at the Presidents Cup two months ago, where they were an unbeatable team. The controversial news reports that have sent Woods into a freefall the last two weeks have hit Stricker hard. Though his friendship with Woods is limited to their times together at PGA Tour events, he has struggled with the picture of Woods that has emerged.

Stricker, though, is showing no signs of letting anything cool off his game this winter. He and fellow Wisconsinite Jerry Kelly seized the lead Saturday going into the final round of the Shark Shootout at Tiburon Golf Club.

With his dominant performance at the Presidents Cup in October, his victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship in September, Stricker finished the ’09 season strong. His three PGA Tour titles this year helped him climb to No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Senior writer Randall Mell caught up with Stricker at the Shark Shootout to talk about his big year and how the Woods’ fallout has affected him:

What was your reaction when Tiger announced Friday night that he was taking an “indefinite break” from professional golf?

My first reaction was that it was a good decision. For him to get his family life in order, and work out all those things that have happened, is what he needs to do. My hats off to him. Golf is always going to be here and hopefully he gets his life straight at home and comes back. Because we need him back here as well. We all know what he does for excitement levels, purse levels, TV audiences. It all goes up when he’s here, so we need him here, too. It shows he has his priorities, hopefully, in order and gets that taken care of and gets back out here.

How have all these wild reports about Tiger over the last two weeks affected you?

When it first came out, at first, I was pretty scared for him, seeing he was seriously injured. As it turns out, all the things that have happened since, it’s been a bit of a downer for me. He’s not a bad guy. He’s just made some bad decisions, and, hopefully, he can get it straight. I’m his friend, and I’m going to continue to be his friend. I just hope he gets it straight and can save that marriage and his family life because it’s very important. It was a bit of a shock to the system, but I wish him the best, and I am going to be there for him no matter what.

Nothing seems to be slowing you down this off season. You and Jerry Kelly are making a strong run at the Shark Shootout. Jerry’s a good friend of yours, but people think of you two as the odd couple because you have such different personalities. He’s fiery and you’re so calm. Are you the odd couple here at Tiburon this weekend?

I guess on the course we may be a little bit of an odd couple, just because he shows his emotions a little more than I do, but we are both very competitive. We are both family guys. Jerry is one of the best family guys I know. He really takes care of his family, and he loves to be around them. I’m the same way. In that respect, we are the same way.

We know you like to spend this time of year deer hunting. Are you having as good a year with a bow in hand as you have had with a golf club in hand?

Not too many highlights in my hunting season this year. I still haven’t shot a buck yet. It’s been a strange year up there [in Wisconsin ]. The corn stayed up all the way through December. They just took it down by the farm I hunt. The corn created a place for all the deer to go into. We didn’t see a lot of deer because they were hiding in the corn. The next couple weeks, hopefully, we’ll get one.

No trophies? Does that make hunting any less fun? Or do you still relish the time away in the woods to re-charge your batteries for next year?

I enjoy just going out. I don’t have to shoot anything, just having a good time. There’s a strategy involved. You try to get close to these animals. I bow hunt. That’s pretty much all I do. For me, I have to get within 30 yards to have a shot. So you’re learning their patterns, what they do, and you’re trying to set up and get close to them.

Do you still hone your swing hitting balls into the snow from out of that heated trailer at Cherokee Country Club in Madison?

Before going out to Tiger’s event last week, I spent a week in there each day, just getting back at it. We didn’t have any snow yet, but we just got snow a couple days ago. It’s a good place for me to go and practice and get ready to play.

How does the confidence gained this year factor into what’s possible for you next season?

My confidence is obviously very good. I had a great year, winning three times, being paired with Tiger and playing well with him and holding up my end of the deal at the Presidents Cup and being part of that winning team. It all adds to a player’s confidence level. I’m very excited about this year. I feel like my swing is still good and where it needs to be. I’ve been hitting some good shots the last couple weeks, so I’m excited about getting going next year.

You were strong under pressure in big season-ending events, winning the Deutsche Bank Championship during the FedEx Cup playoffs and at the Presidents Cup. How does that bode for you in a bid to win your first major championship?

I had a couple good majors last year, too. I had a good Masters. I’ve had some good majors. I’ve had a couple opportunities to win in them. I’d love to get back in there again. I feel like my game has gotten a little stronger each year and my confidence level is getting a little bit stronger each year. You just have to get yourself in those positions in majors and see if you can do that. Hopefully, I can do that this next year.

Is winning a major a larger goal for you this year or is that something you feel like you just have to allow to happen?

I try not to put too much emphasis on having to play well in the majors. They are tough enough as it is. There are a lot of nerves to handle, conditions are usually a little different than what we play in normal PGA Tour events. It’s something I just try to let happen, and if I play well, hopefully, try to take advantage.

What effect will the new rules governing grooves have on your equipment next season?

It only affects my wedges. My irons are conforming, the ones I have been playing the last four years. I don’t think I’ll be changing those. Basically, I am playing two new [Titleist] sand wedges with conforming grooves. There’s a little bit of a difference. I am not quite used to them yet. The chipping is a little different. The ball comes off a little bit faster with a little less spin, probably. It’s something I am going to have to continue to work on. Everybody is going to have to work on it, too. It’s not a huge difference, but enough to make a difference.

You are known for your strong wedge play. Do you think the new grooves’ rules will benefit players with strong wedge games?

I think so. I don’t feel like I am going to be at a disadvantage. Everyone is in the same boat, whereas before some guys could put some higher-spinning clubs in play. I knew guys who had more aggressive grooves than other guys – still within legal limits – but some would spin more than others. Now everyone is on the same page. So I have full confidence in my ability to learn a few different shots and maybe do a little more with loft than spin. But I was never a guy who spun the ball anyway. So I don’t feel like it’s a huge change for me.

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Lesson with Woods fetches $210K for Harvey relief

By Will GrayDecember 13, 2017, 2:51 pm

A charity event featuring more than two dozen pro golfers raised more than $1 million for Hurricane Harvey relief, thanks in large part to a hefty price paid for a private lesson with Tiger Woods.

The pro-am fundraiser was organized by Chris Stroud, winner of the Barracuda Championship this summer, and fellow pro and Houston resident Bobby Gates. It was held at Bluejack National in Montgomery, Texas, about an hour outside Houston and the first Woods-designed course to open in the U.S.

The big-ticket item on the auction block was a private, two-person lesson with Woods at Bluejack National that sold for a whopping $210,000.

Other participants included local residents like Stacy Lewis, Patrick Reed and Steve Elkington as well as local celebrities like NBA All-Star Clyde Drexler, Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane.

Stroud was vocal in his efforts to help Houston rebuild in the immediate aftermath of the storm that ravaged the city in August, and he told the Houston Chronicle that he plans to continue fundraising efforts even after eclipsing the event's $1 million goal.

"This is the best event I have ever been a part of, and this is just a start," Stroud said. "We have a long way to go for recovery to this city, and we want to keep going with this and raise as much as we can and help as many victims as we can."

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LPGA schedule features 34 events, record purse

By Randall MellDecember 13, 2017, 2:02 pm

The LPGA schedule will once again feature 34 events next year with a record $68.75 million in total purses, the tour announced on Wednesday.

While three events are gone from the 2018 schedule, three new events have been added, with two of those on the West Coast and one in mainland China.

The season will again start with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic on Paradise Island (Jan. 25-28) and end with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., (Nov. 15-18).

The LPGA played for $65 million in total prize money in 2017.

An expanded West Coast swing in the front half of the schedule will now include the HUGEL-JTBC Championship in the Los Angeles area April 19-22. The site will be announced at a later date.

The tour will then make a return to San Francisco’s Lake Merced Golf Club the following week, in a new event sponsored by L&P Cosmetics, a Korean skincare company. Both new West Coast tournaments will be full-field events.

The tour’s third new event will be played in Shanghai Oct. 18-21 as part of the fall Asian swing. The title sponsor and golf course will be announced at a later date.

“Perhaps the most important aspect of our schedule is the consistency — continuing to deliver strong playing opportunities both in North America and around the world, while growing overall purse levels every year,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement. “There is simply no better [women’s] tour opportunity in the world, when it comes to purses, global TV coverage or strength of field. It’s an exciting time in women’s golf, with the best players from every corner of the globe competing against each other in virtually every event.”

While the Evian Championship will again be played in September next year, the tour confirmed its plans to move its fifth major to the summer in 2019, to be part of a European swing, with the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

The Manulife LPGA Classic and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational are not returning to the schedule next year. Also, the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open will not be played next year as it prepares to move to the front of the 2019 schedule, to be paired with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.

The U.S. Women’s Open will make its new place earlier in the summer, a permanent move in the tour’s scheduling. It will be played May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek Golf Club outside Birmingham, Ala. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (June 28-July 1) will be played at Kemper Lakes Golf Club on the north side of Chicago and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (Aug. 2-5) will be played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.

For the first time since its inception in 2014, the UL International Crown team event is going overseas, with the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, scheduled to host the event Oct. 4-7. The KEB Hana Bank Championship will be played in South Korean the following week.

Here is the LPGA's schedule for 2018:

Jan. 25-28: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic; Paradise Island, Bahamas; Purse: $1.4 million

Feb. 15-18: ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open; Adelaide, Australia; Purse: $1.3 million

Feb. 21-24: Honda LPGA Thailand; Chonburi, Thailand; Purse: $1.6 million

March 1-4: HSBC Women's World Championship; Singapore; Purse: $1.5 million

March 15-18: Bank of Hope Founders Cup; Phoenix, Arizona; Purse: $1.5 million

March 22-25: Kia Classic; Carlsbad, California; Purse: $1.8 million

March 29 - April 1: ANA Inspiration; Rancho Mirage, California; Purse: $2.8 million

April 11-14: LOTTE Championship; Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii; Purse: $2 million

April 19-22: HUGEL-JTBC Championship; Greater Los Angeles, California; Purse: $1.5 million

April 26-29: Name to be Announced; San Francisco, California; Purse: $1.5 million

May 3-6: Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic; The Colony, Texas; Purse: $1.3 million

May 17-20: Kingsmill Championship; Williamsburg, Virginia; Purse: $1.3 million

May 24-27: LPGA Volvik Championship; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Purse: $1.3 million

May 31 - June 3: U.S. Women's Open Championship; Shoal Creek, Alabama; Purse: $5 million

June 8-10: ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer; Galloway, New Jersey; Purse: $1.75 million

June 14-17: Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Purse: $2 million

June 22-24: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G; Rogers, Arkansas; Purse: $2 million

June 28 - July 1: KPMG Women's PGA Championship; Kildeer, Illinois; Purse: $3.65 million

July 5-8: Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; Oneida, Wisconsin; Purse: $2 million

July 12-15: Marathon Classic presented by Owens-Corning and O-I; Sylvania, Ohio; Purse: $1.6 million

July 26-29: Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open; East Lothian, Scotland; Purse: $1.5 million

Aug. 2-5: Ricoh Women's British Open; Lancashire, England; Purse: $3.25 million

Aug. 16-19: Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim; Indianapolis, Indiana; Purse: $2 million

Aug. 23-26: CP Women's Open; Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Purse: $2.25 million

Aug. 30 - Sept. 2: Cambia Portland Classic; Portland, Oregon; Purse: $1.3 million

Sept. 13-16: The Evian Championship; Evian-les-Bains, France; Purse: $3.85 million

Sept. 27-30: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Purse: $1.8 million

Oct. 4-7: UL International Crown; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $1.6 million

Oct. 11-14: LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $2 million

Oct. 18-21: Name to be Announced; Shanghai, China; Purse: $2.1 million

Oct. 25-28: Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship; New Taipei City, Chinese Taipei; Purse: $2.2 million

Nov. 2-4: TOTO Japan Classic; Shiga, Japan; Purse: $1.5 million

Nov. 7-10: Blue Bay LPGA; Hainan Island, China; Purse: $2.1 million

Nov. 15-18: CME Group Tour Championship; Naples, Florida; Purse: $2.5 million

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 4, Jordan Spieth

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 1:00 pm

Dismissed because he’s supposedly too short off the tee, or not accurate enough with his irons, or just a streaky putter, Jordan Spieth is almost never the answer to the question of which top player, when he’s at his best, would win in a head-to-head match.

And yet here he is, at the age of 24, with 11 career wins and three majors, on a pace that compares favorably with the giants of the game. He might not possess the firepower of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, but since he burst onto the PGA Tour in 2013 he has all that matters – a better résumé.

Spieth took the next step in his development this year by becoming the Tour’s best iron player – and its most mentally tough.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


Just a great putter? Oh, puhleeze: He won three times despite putting statistics (42nd) that were his worst since his rookie year. Instead, he led the Tour in strokes gained-approach the green and this summer showed the discipline, golf IQ and bounce-back ability that makes him such a unique talent. 

Even with his putter misbehaving, Spieth closed out the Travelers Championship by holing a bunker shot in the playoff, then, in perhaps an even bigger surprise, perfectly executed the player-caddie celebration, chest-bumping caddie Michael Greller. A few weeks later, sublime iron play carried him into the lead at Royal Birkdale, his first in a major since his epic collapse at the 2016 Masters.

Once again his trusty putter betrayed him, and by the time he arrived on the 13th tee, he was tied with Matt Kuchar. What happened next was the stuff of legend – a lengthy ruling, gutsy up-and-down, stuffed tee shot and go-get-that putt – that lifted Spieth to his third major title.

Though he couldn’t complete the career Grand Slam at the PGA, he’ll likely have, oh, another two decades to join golf’s most exclusive club.

In the barroom debate of best vs. best, you can take the guys with the flair, with the booming tee shots and the sky-high irons. Spieth will just take the trophies.

THE MAJORS

Masters Tournament: Return to the 12th; faltering on Sunday (T-11)

Spieth pars 12, but makes quad on 15

Spieth takes another gut punch, but still standing

Article: Spieth splashes to worst Masters finish

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U.S. Open: 1 over usually good ... not at Erin Hills (T-35)

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The Open: Unforgettable finish leads to major win No. 3 (1st)

Spieth survives confusing ordeal on 13

Photos: Spieth's incredible journey on 13

Take it, it's yours: Spieth gets claret jug

Chamblee: Spieth doesn't have 'it' - 'he has it all'

Article: Spieth silences his doubters - even himself

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PGA Championship: Career Grand Slam bid comes up well short (T-28)

Article: Spieth accepts that Grand Slam is off the table


TWO REGULAR TOUR WINS

AT&T Pebble Beach

Article: Spieth rising from 'valley' after Pebble Beach win

Travelers Championship

Spieith wins dramatic Travelers in playoff

Watch: Spieth holes bunker shot, goes nuts


FUN OUTSIDE OF TOUR LIFE


PHOTO GALLERIES

Photos: Jordan Spieth and Annie Verret

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Photos: Jordan Spieth through the years

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 12:30 pm