Curtis Strange isnt quite sure the TV guy is the moniker he wants to go by as he plays the Champions Tour for the first time, competing as rookie at the ACE Classic (Fri., 1:30 p.m. ET on TGC) this weekend. But for the last eight years he was a television analyst, calling em as he saw em, for the ABC network. Now he isnt sure what greeting he will get from the crowds at Naples.
When you do the TV gig, you go from a player - Hes the guy who plays, you know, said Strange. But then when you go for eight years (being an announcer), you all of a sudden become more recognizable ' trust me on this ' than when you won two U.S. Opens. True ' especially in the days when you have all the TV.
Strange was a remarkable player for a long time, indeed winning the U.S. Open in back-to-back years in 1988 and 1989. He won 17 times during his career. But now he wonders who will remember.
I did 19 events (announcing) for eight years in a row, he said. During the Tiger stretch -- we had a lot of Tiger, which makes a difference with big audiences. We did the British Open every year; we had a lot of big events.
So Ill hear that ' the TV guy is playing. You better get youre (tail) back in the booth.
Strange laughed heartily for a moment. He really doesnt mind if the gallery recalls him primarily for his television work - initially. But he hopes that they soon will have another reason for recognizing him. He hopes his play will again make him a player to remember, and not his occupation.
Ill hear some of that for awhile, he said. It wont last for a long time ' who remembers Trevino and Fuzzy, who did TV for four or five years. Nobody of my generation remembers that.
Strange knows that he is pretty far removed from that guy who used to win U.S. Opens, even if he is competing now against the gents on the Champions Tour. The only antidote for a game which has been in mothballs is time ' and lots and lots of play.
Ive been working at it very seriously, Ive been taking it very seriously, said Strange. Now Ive just got to go play.
The thing I need more than anything is competition ' competition every day, playing. I dont care if its pro-ams, I dont care if its Friday though Sunday of the event, Im playing golf. Because Ive hit a lot of balls, but its a different animal, hitting balls and playing golf.
Strange has an edge over most of the players who were 49, about to become 50. He already KNOWS how good the older gents are. He did a few Champions events each year on ABC, and no one will have to tell him this week that hes underestimating these guys.
He knows, also, that he has to really want to play. He cant manufacture that feeling.
Theres nothing you can manufacture, he says in a moment of candor. Theres nothing you can manufacture. If you really want to go play, you go play. Its just something you go do.
I feel that way this week ' very much so. There were times I had it the last five, eight years ' I played once I a blue moon, all of a sudden Id play well, Id play a couple of weeks in a row, Id say, Damn, lets go try to do something.
But again, you cant fake it. You know, Im ready to go. Thats all I can say. I dont know any other way to say it except that Im very enthusiastic, Im ready to go, Im enjoying the work I have to put in. I need a lot of work on my short game ' a lot of work.
Strange is anxious to play. Hes anxious to feel that old anxiety over a difficult golf shot. He is ready once again to read the schedule and see what events he will be playing. And ' hes anxious to see all the guys he used to compete against, and hes anxious to see if he can eventually beat them again.
I want to physically get back to playing golf, Strange said. Its hard to explain. But its different when youre playing for $2 a hole, and when youve got to hit a 6-iron into a crossing wind to a back-left hole location with a deep bunker staring you in the face. Thats something you get used to, you know, pulling the shot off.
I havent had a shot really mean something in many, many years ' that really meant anything. So thats where I come from ' Ive got to get back and used to that. Now, hopefully it doesnt take long. But it might. I think Ill have the guts to hit that shot. But its a matter of just doing it.
Strange said he wont measure success this year by wins and losses. He will gauge success initially just by the number of solid shots he hits. This week there are 78 players in the field, and Strange says if you are going by the theory that success is limited only to the player who wins, then there are 77 of us who will go from here unhappy. That will drive you nuts.
And so, Strange pulls into this stop in his career with eyes wide open. He didnt start thinking about the Champions Tour, frankly, until only a few years ago. He never did think about what this day would bring when he was 25 or 30 ' because when youre 25 or 30, youve never going to be 50. Then it was time again for a hearty laugh.
Curtis Strange begins today with his eyes wide open and with calluses on his hands. Hes tried as best he can to get ready. He realizes he will only get in tournament shape by playing in tournaments. But still, there is a small part of him that cant wait for the opening tee shot Friday.
This intrigues me, he confessed. I want to see if I can do it again ' reasonably well again. Its all about hitting shots, pulling off shots, that someone else wont be able to do.