Stricker slowing down, but he's not close to retirement

By Rex HoggardJune 2, 2015, 6:35 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – At 48 years old Steve Stricker hasn’t played more than 13 events in three years, he signed on to host a Champions Tour event starting next season in Wisconsin and is scheduled to play Monday’s 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier because, “I don't know how many of these I'm going to get to play.”

Just don’t suggest he’s closing in on retirement.

“I do feel like I'm going to work hard and keep my body in decent shape and play a limited schedule out here,” he said on Tuesday at Muirfield Village where he won in 2011.

“I think I've got exempt status out here until 52, so it will be fun to play some out here in some of the events that I've had some success at or where I enjoy going, [Memorial] being one of them or Colonial.”

While that may not seem like a surprise for a player who has won seven times on the PGA Tour since 2009, Stricker has embraced a less-is-more approach to his trade the past three seasons, limiting his schedule largely to the majors, World Golf Championships and a select few other starts.

In 2013, Stricker traded a full-time life on the road – which he had been a part of since joining the Tour in 1994 – for family and the languid pace of life in Madison, Wis.

Things got even slower when he underwent back surgery late last year following a run of hip and quad ailments that all stemmed from a bulging L5 disc in his back. He didn’t make his first start of the season until the Masters and he’s played just three times since on what he says is a cautious schedule.

“I'm finding it hard to put multiple days of practice together and tournaments together yet,” Stricker said. “But I have noticed that I still have some more strengthening to do and issues to kind of piece through and get through it.”

But while the body is reluctant, the mind remains strong. That’s always been Stricker’s greatest asset, even more than a silky putting stroke that has made him the circuit’s de facto putting coach for the likes of Tiger Woods.

This is, after all, the same guy who won twice in 1996, just his third year on Tour, before lapsing into the type of slump that sends most players looking for a day job.

In 2003, he finished 189th on the money list and failed to crack the top 125 in earnings for three consecutive years primarily because of a balky driver that produced a wild hook.

On Tuesday at the Memorial he was asked about his decision to play Monday’s U.S. Open qualifier for the first time since 2006, just as he began to emerge from his competitive crash, and his mind drifted back to those uncertain days.

He qualified for that year’s U.S. Open at Winged Foot and for two days proved to himself that his rebuilt driver swing could hold up under major championship pressure, carding rounds of 70-69 for the halfway lead.

“The [2006] U.S. Open really gave me a lot of confidence,” said Stricker, who tied for sixth place at Winged Foot. “I came out and I actually drove the ball really well in that position. That gave me a lot of confidence going forward. The things I've been working on obviously were working, they were holding up under the gun.”

The next season he would win The Barclays, the first of the new four-event FedEx Cup playoff series, and the Tour’s Comeback Player of the Year Award for the second consecutive season.

He has since become a leaderboard staple, joining one of just three players, along with Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan, to earn a trip to the Tour Championship in every FedEx Cup season before last season’s medical-induced miscue. He’s also a competitive anomaly in a sport that demands equal parts quality and quantity.

Consider that 10 of the top 15 players on the current FedEx Cup point list already have more than 13 starts with three majors, a World Golf Championship and four playoff events still looming on the schedule, yet that would be considered a “normal year” for Stricker.

There’s also that Champions Tour event, the American Family Insurance Championship – which he won’t even be qualified to play for another two seasons –yet he said he will happily embrace a ceremonial roll.

His history as a dogged competitor also lifted Stricker into the fringes of the conversation as a potential U.S. Ryder Cup captain, particularly following the changes to the traditional selection process made earlier this year.

He would be 53 when the matches are played at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis., in 2020 and he didn’t shy away from the idea of taking the helm for a home game. 

“It would be fun. I don’t know that I’d get the opportunity, but it would be a welcome job especially with it being in Wisconsin,” Stricker said. “Even last year [when he was an assistant for Tom Watson], I’d rather be playing but it was still a great experience.”

All that, however, will have to wait. Despite a schedule and a body that may be leaning toward the golden years, Stricker will gladly hold a multitude of titles – part-time player, tournament host, potential Ryder Cup captain – but there’s one description he has no interest in – retired.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.