Stricker playing hometown favorite at Whistling Straits

By Randall MellAugust 12, 2015, 10:25 pm

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Whistling Straits doesn’t look like it belongs in Wisconsin.

You drive through the front gate, and you think you’ve been transported to the rugged coast off the Forth of Clyde in Scotland or something.

All those cornfields just outside the gate, all those pretty little farmhouses with their rustic red barns and silos, they seem so far away.

But it sure sounds like Wisconsin around here.

You hear that whenever Steve Stricker steps to a tee box.

This is his home, his sweet motherland, and he’s the beloved favorite son this week. All the good folks from small towns like Ladysmith, Lodi, Peshtigo and Sturgeon Bay, places so much like where Stricker grew up in Edgerton, and from the larger cities like Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay, they’re rooting hard for Stricker around here.

There’s a lot of love being poured on the Wisconsin boy already this week. When he reached the last hole in his practice round Wednesday, he was showered with howls of delight.

Stricker’s an emotional man, he will give you that, and he is sure to be dealing with a lot of feelings when he steps to the first tee box at 1:20 p.m. ET on Thursday. His wife, Nicki, is back on his bag as caddie this week. It all promises to get even more emotional by week’s end, whether that’s in a dreamy finish hoisting a trophy, or a more heavy-hearted finish, missing a cut on Friday. It’s all heightened for Stricker knowing he could be playing his final major championship.

Yes, his last major. He said he’s resigned to the possibility.

“I probably won’t play another major,” Stricker said Wednesday in the shadow of the Whistling Straits clubhouse. “Well, maybe I’ll try to qualify for the U.S. Open when it’s at Erin Hills [in Wisconsin in 2017]. Hopefully, that will happen, but not too many majors do you get to play in your home state.”


PGA Championship: Full-field tee times


Stricker, 48, is a 12-time PGA Tour winner who would relish electrifying all these hometown fans with a run at winning his first major. Yes, he has fantasized about winning here. He shared that dream with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel earlier this week.

“Yeah, that would be pretty special,” Stricker said. “It’s run through my mind a few times how cool of a thing that would be. There’s a long ways to go, and I’m going to have to pull some tricks out of my hat to do that, but you never know. That’s why we play this game and sports in general. I feel like I can play well.”

Stricker made his best run at winning a major in the PGA Championship. He took a share of the lead into the final round at Sahalee in 1998, ultimately finishing second to Vijay Singh, two shots back. He equaled the lowest round ever shot in a major, opening the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club with a 63 four years ago. He has finished T-7 in two of the last three PGA Championships. That’s how he got into this week’s event. He qualified off his T-7 finish at Valhalla last year.

Giant galleries are expected at Whistling Straits, and that means giant support for Stricker.

While home games are usually an advantage in sports, that’s not necessarily the case in golf.

There’s typically additional pressure on the hometown guy, who has more distractions to deal with than he does on the road. There are family and friends wanting more of his time. There is more media. There are more strangers wanting more attention, more autographs.

GolfChannel.com asked Stricker if a home game is really an advantage in golf.

“It can go either way,” Stricker said. “What I’ve experienced in the past, when we’ve played in the Greater Milwaukee Open, you get on a roll, and you can feed off that momentum. If you don’t, you kind of press too hard. David Hearn just went through it in Canada a couple weeks ago, trying to win up there. He said it’s great fun, but it’s tough. It’s the weight of everyone on your shoulders, and you want to play well for everybody else, and there are all the extra demands. Yeah, it can be tough, but it’s also fun.”

Stricker regularly plays as a favorite at the John Deere Classic, where he has thrived in the role. He won that event three consecutive years (2009-11). As a Wisconsin guy who went to school at the University of Illinois, he’s a hometown guy on two levels in the Quad Cities event.

One of his generation’s best putters, Stricker’s chances this week might just come down to his flat stick.

Coming off back surgery last December, Stricker’s semi-retired status translated into even fewer events this year. He has made just eight starts this season, with a T-27 finish at Colonial his best finish. He has slid to No. 138 in the world rankings. His putting hasn’t been good. In fact, it’s never been worse. He’s 164th in strokes gained putting, his worst ranking in his career. It prompted him to take extreme measures this week. He has benched the Odyssey White Hot putter that he has used for almost 15 years for a new Scotty Cameron GoLo.

“I’ve been putting horrible,” Stricker said. “I look down, and it’s something different now. See if that helps.”

Stricker likes the rest of his game. If he drops a few putts early, he could put a real jolt into Whistling Straits.

“I’m hitting it nicely,” Stricker said. “If I can continue to do that and gain a little confidence on the greens, I’ll be fine. It will be interesting to see tomorrow. I’m excited to play. I’m excited to get out there and test it out.”

All those Wisconsin fans are excited to help him make that dream finish come true.

Getty Images

Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

Getty Images

Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:







Getty Images

Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

Getty Images

Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."