Tebow Time: Not that Steve Stricker will ever be confused for the Denver signal caller, but the 44-year-old did have his share of doubters coming into the new season. It wasn’t that long ago that Stricker told a group of reporters at the Tour Championship that he may not be able to play the Presidents Cup because of his ailing neck and now he’s on the verge of his own 80-yard walk-off toss at the opener.
“I've given myself some opportunities. Overall my game is pretty sharp,” said Stricker, who birdied his final four holes on Sunday to build a five-stroke lead over defending champion Jonathan Byrd, Martin Laird and Webb Simpson entering the final round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. “I worked hard on my putting the last couple of weeks and that seems to be paying off.”
It's how you finish: If you're a Stricker fan, don't fret if his lead dwindles early in the final round. Stricker is currently 19 under par. Through three rounds, he's played the first 13 holes in 6 under and the final five holes in 13 under. (Click for full-field scores)
A sure thing?: Stricker held a share of the 54-hole lead in last year's Tournament of Champions but ultimately finished T-4. However, he has never lost a 72-hole PGA Tour event when holding sole possession of the lead entering the final round. Another stat in Stricker's favor: 22 of the 28 Hyundai champions have held at least a share of the 54-hole lead.
Precedent: Is five shots too much to overcome for the three players currently in second place? Nope. Ben Crane overcame a five-stroke deficit to win last year's McGladrey's Classic, while Brandt Snedeker was six back before winning the 2011 Heritage.
Geaux David: Tee times for Monday’s final turn have been moved up with David Toms going off first and playing by himself at 1:55 p.m. (ET), 8:55 a.m. Hawaii time. This should give the Louisiana native plenty of time to finish his round before the BCS Championship game between his beloved LSU Tigers and Alabama begins at 8:30 p.m. (ET).
Trivia gold: Quick, who is the only player with multiple PGA Tour wins the last three years? Stumped? That would be Stricker, the circuit’s unassuming “Cheese Head” and one of the game’s most consistent performers since he emerged from a prolonged slump in 2007.
If Stricker closes the deal today in Kapalua he could make it four consecutive seasons with multiple wins next week at the Sony Open, after that he plans to take off four weeks.
By the numbers: 6.913. That’s how many strokes Stricker has gained on the field according to the Tour’s putting statistics. Not much of a surprise, however, as he ranked second in the strokes gained-putting category last year behind Luke Donald. Not sure we completely understand the new measurement, but it’s tough to argue with the results.
Island hopping. The Hyundai’s scheduled Monday finish was supposed to free the event from the vortex that is the NFL playoffs, but it may have inadvertently impacted the field at this week’s Sony Open. Just 19 of the 28 players who made the trip to Kapalua plan to play next week in Honolulu compared to 23 of 33 last year and 20 of 28 in 2010. More than any other segment of the schedule, the Aloha swing has become a victim of golf’s nonexistent off-season.