Steve Stricker fights for victory and his place in the game

By Randall MellSeptember 8, 2009, 3:00 am
DeutscheBank Logo 2007NORTON, Mass. – Sometimes golf isn’t really about grip, stance and club positions.

Sometimes, it’s about the fight inside you.

When Steve Stricker makes the long drive through Northern Wisconsin to one of his favorite hunting grounds in the Upper Peninsula, the conversations with his coach and father-in-law can veer wonderfully into philosophical reaches like that.

Dennis Tiziani sees terrific qualities in his son-in-law.

Tiziani sees a gentle soul, a doting father and husband who isn’t afraid to cry talking about things that matter most to him.

Steve Stricker
Steve Stricker reacts to his second career playoff victory. (Getty Images)
He also sees what others don’t.

He sees a terrific fighting spirit.

He saw it again Monday with Stricker knocking Tiger Woods off his perch atop the FedEx Cup playoff standings with his victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston.

Tiziani will tell you that Stricker is atop the playoff points list today because in taking so many punches in his career he has learned how to throw them.

They’ve talked about that in their long drives away from their homes in Madison, Wis., to their favorite hunting haunts.

“You have to get in a fight and take some hard punches to know what the fight is all about,” Tiziani said. “To learn how to win a fight, you have to get in them. You have to know how to take a punch and how to give one. Steve’s learned that. He’s learned to get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

Stricker, 42, had those hard times four, five and six years ago, when he couldn’t keep his PGA Tour card. Though he rebuilt his game and twice won PGA Tour Comeback Player of the Year honors, he still needed work honing his fighting skills.

Earlier this year, Stricker blew chances to win the Bob Hope Classic in January and the Northern Trust Open in February. Tour brethren liked him, but there were whispers that he was soft.

Stricker proved something coming back to win the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in a playoff in May and the John Deere Classic in July.

With his strong finish Monday at TPC Boston, with birdies at the 71st and 72nd holes to win the Deutsche Bank Championship, Stricker showed just how skillfully he’s learned to punch under pressure.

“It’s just a process with me,” Stricker said. “I need those steps, those ladders to build on. That’s what I felt like it’s been for me this year with the confidence and being in contention a lot.”

Tiziani, the retired University of Wisconsin coach who owns Cherokee Country Club in Madison, says Stricker’s rise is in great measure due to his taking charge of his own swing. On yet another hunting trip, Tiziani told his son-in-law that he needed to own his swing.

“Teachers and coaches are overrated,” Tiziani said in a telephone conversation Monday night from his club, where he watched Stricker win on TV. “Players are good because they want to be good. We had that conversation, too. You become a better player when you become your own teacher. I work with Steve, I coach him, but I’ve become more a set of eyes for him.”

The story’s been told about how Stricker fought his way back from his slump hitting countless balls from a heated trailer into the snow during the dead of winter at Cherokee. Tiziani said Stricker did most of that work on his own, spending countless hours hitting shots in front of a mirror, so he could check his club positions himself.

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Player: Steve Stricker
  • Event: Deutsche Bank Championship
“You could see Steve doing that out there today, looking back at his hands to check his position,” Tiziani said. “It’s become a part of his practice routine.”

Stricker has been renowned for his wedge game and his putting stroke for a long time, but he elevated his game to a new level in that trailer. He did it building a new swing with his driver. Tiziani said Stricker’s arms and club were “getting stuck” behind his body. He changed that with work in the mirror. Stricker shortened his swing, making it more compact.

“The driver’s the biggest part of this for him now, no question about it,” said fellow PGA Tour pro Jerry Kelly, who also makes his home in Madison and was there to hug Stricker at the 18th green Monday. “Even when Steve was down in the doldrums, he still led the Tour in putting. Once [the driving] came, he was prepared to do this. It probably better prepared him because his scrambling was incredible.

“It was great to see him work through it himself. He put so much time into it. He worked so hard.”

Seeing Stricker consistently playing from fairways is a daunting image, Kelly said, because it sets his friend up as one of the game’s great scorers. Stricker is No. 1 on the PGA Tour in putting average. He’s No. 2 to Woods in scoring average.

“When you get Steve inside 100 yards, there is nobody better,” Kelly said.

With his driver more dependable, Stricker is better built to win the game’s biggest events.

“Right now, there’s only one player in the world better than Steve,” Tiziani said. “Steve hasn’t won a major championship, but I’ll tell you, over the next three, four or five years, he’s going to become a factor. You can’t hit in the fairway like he’s doing now, and putt the way he does, and not know that your time is coming.”

Stricker’s comfort level alongside Woods may factor in that, also. Stricker has become friends with Woods, and he has learned to play well in their pairings together. In fact, Stricker was cumulatively 10 shots better the first three times they played together in this year's playoff events. He's posted a better score than Woods in three of their four pairings together.

“Slowly, I’ve been gaining confidence under the gun,” Stricker said.

That’s the fighter in him talking.
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Snedeker starts slow in effort to snag Masters invite

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."