MARANA, Ariz. – Steve Stricker, semi-retired golfer, says he doesn’t mind a long layoff before a big event. Which is good, because when he tees it up Wednesday for the opening round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, he will have gone six weeks between competitive shots.
This time, however, the rest was needed. When Stricker last played, at the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, he hardly could walk the hilly fairways at Kapalua. He still finished solo second.
Turns out Stricker had a herniated C5 disk in his back, which sent pain down his leg and into his foot. After taking a cortisone shot, undergoing physical therapy and strengthening his left side, he said Tuesday: “I feel really strong.”
The Match Play is the second of an 11-event schedule for Stricker, who turns 46 on Saturday. He announced at the beginning of the season that he would play a limited schedule this season to focus on his family and fledgling foundation. He likely will play the majors and World Golf Championships that are held in the States, as well as a few other regular events, such as the John Deere Classic, which has become something of a hometown event for the Wisconsinite.
To prepare for the Match Play, Stricker hit balls at home for two weeks, then arrived in Phoenix a few days early to practice and play.
“I’ve got a lot of golf under my belt in a short period of time,” he said, “and my game feels good.”
Stricker, who won this event in 2001, drew a No. 3 seed here and faces 14th-seeded Henrik Stenson in the opening round.