Stricker the Yin to Tigers Yang

By Rex HoggardSeptember 27, 2010, 3:05 am
Ryder CupATLANTA – This week, the Red, White and Blue nation will look to Corey Pavin, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to stem an American overseas victory drought that stretches back nearly two decades.

But in the simplest terms, if Team USA is going to steal one across the pond for the first time since the 1993 Ryder Cup it likely won’t be the game’s titans or America’s tactician that lead the way. It may well come down to the magical motivational powers of an unassuming Cheesehead.

Sean Foley has been charged with fixing Woods’ wayward action on the fly and it will be Pavin’s job to insulate his besieged star from the rigors of an away game, but ultimately America’s cup fortunes will rest with Steve Stricker, the understated undercard in last year’s power pairing at the Presidents Cup.

Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker
Steve Stricker could be the perfect team member to solve the Tiger Woods Ryder Cup equation. (Getty Images)

At Harding Park Stricker and Woods, every bit an odd couple personality-wise, went 4-0 in team play, rolling through all of International captain Greg Norman’s comers and staking the U.S. side to a five-point victory.

Last week at East Lake Stricker played the role to perfection, warning that a 4-0 week at Celtic Manor would be a tall order and even going so far as to dismiss the certainty of Tiger-Steve Part 2, which is about as likely as an Indian summer in Wales.

Know this about the 2010 Ryder Cup, Stricker and Woods will be paired together, it will rain and the European crowds will wear the visiting team out with choruses of “Ole, Ole, Ole.” Whether that serenade echoes through the cold Welsh air late next Sunday will depend on Stricker’s ability to rekindle that Harding Park magic.

And if Stricker does turn out to be the tonic that cures Woods’ competitive ills he will be the Man of the Match, regardless of record or outcome, particularly considering Woods’ historic team woes in the biennial grudge match.

The world No. 1’s Mendoza Line team record (7-12-1) in the Ryder Cup is one of the game’s great mysteries, like fliers and lag putting, and illustrates how difficult it has been for American captains to find Woods a functional partner.

In 11 Ryder and Presidents Cups Woods has had 17 different partners and of the players he played with more than once just four of them – Stricker, Jim Furyk, Davis Love III and Charles Howell III – have played better than .500 ball.

“When you become his partner you are immediately pulled into a difficult situation,” said Furyk, who is a combined 5-3-1 in Ryder and Presidents Cup play paired with Woods. “It’s an intense atmosphere. He’s used to it, but once you’re paired with him you have to learn to deal with it.”

Furyk may have been the first to overcome the Tiger effect, going 2-2 with him at the K Club in 2006.

“Our first match together I played awful. I was hurt, but he had the other two guys 1 down with his own ball, minimum,” said Furyk of his opening-day fourball victory over Padraig Harrington and Colin Montgomerie. “I got back to the team room and joked, ‘I don’t know what’s so hard about playing with him?’”

But what seemed so easy for Furyk has been like long math to others. In 2004, Woods and Mickelson went 0-2 on Friday and haven’t played together since, ditto for Justin Leonard (0-1-1 in Presidents and Ryder Cup play), Fred Couples (1-2) and Mark O’Meara (1-2). One would think all that would be required of a Woods partner is to show up on time. One would be wrong.

Part of the problem seems to be the pressure a Woods pairing brings to a partnership.

Hunter Mahan has never been paired with Woods in a cup match, but he did have a similar encounter with Mickelson in his first cup (2007 Presidents Cup) and can relate.

“With Phil (at Royal Montreal) I worried myself into a frenzy. I wanted to win every match,” Mahan said. “(At Celtic Manor) I would not put Jeff Overton with Tiger. (Overton) is high energy. He might burst playing with Tiger.”

Most attribute the problem to simple chemistry. Similar games may be an advantage, but in the final analysis if Player A and B are type A and B personalities the pairing hasn’t worked.

But that only partly explains why Stricker and Woods clicked so well last year. Stricker is a dedicated family man who spends much of his offseason in a hunting blind and probably doesn’t even own a red golf shirt. Woods is intense and demonstrative and ventures to Wisconsin only for the occasional PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

So why the Harding Park homerun?

“He doesn’t see me as a threat to him. He sees me as a friend,” Stricker said. “When I was younger I wanted to always beat him, but I’m passed that point. I know where I stand in the pecking order in all this.”

Of course Stricker’s Ben Crenshaw-like short game last fall also had a lot to do with the duo’s success. Competitively the two are a ham-and-egg special, Stricker a fairways-and-greens specialist with a deft short game to Woods’ bombing, explosive style.

“Man, I helped out on two holes pretty much, well, three holes all day. Otherwise I was cheerleading all day,” Woods said of his partner on Saturday last year at Harding Park. “It's easy to play with the guy because we all know what a great player he is, and he putts it great, he gets it up-and-down great, and it takes a lot of pressure off me, I'll tell you that.”

In a counter-intuitive way Woods may also feed off Stricker’s stoic Midwestern sensibilities, a perfect yin to Woods’ steely-eyed, fist-pumping yang.

“I feel like I could be a calming influence to him,” Stricker said. “Hopefully he feels comfortable with me.”

And at Celtic Manor, more so than Foley’s counsel or Pavin’s protection, Woods needs calm. Woods needs Stricker.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking 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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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.