WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – Life as a PGA Tour golfer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
OK, sure. You’re playing for millions of dollars every week. You’re featured on television. You’re famous. You have all the equipment at your disposal you could ever want. You drive around in pristine courtesy cars. You’re the object of envy from every guy in high school who poked fun at kids on the golf team.
Wait, what was the point again? Oh, right. Being a pro golfer is not always that great. There’s a lot of travel, often away from your family. If you don’t beat half the field, you don’t earn a paycheck. Injuries or swing problems or just plain bad luck can derail your career in a hurry.
So there you go: It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
Unless you’re Steve Stricker, that is.
Then it’s even better than advertised.
Stricker is working for just the eighth week this year – and yet he remains the world’s 18th-ranked player. He spends more time in deer hunting blinds than on driving ranges. He is “semi-retired,” but unlike most people in that position, he gets paid to play golf rather than the other way around.
What a life.
As if things couldn’t get much sweeter, Stricker decided only about 10 days ago that he’d play this week’s Greenbrier Classic. His regular caddie, Jimmy Johnson, was already committed to another player, so he asked his former looper to take the bag – his wife, Nicki. They brought their two kids, turned it into a sort of working vacation here at what’s been deemed PGA Tour Summer Camp and through one round his name is already on the leaderboard.
Stricker posted an opening-round bogey-free 4-under 66 to get himself into early contention.
“I haven’t played that much,” he said after the round, “but I’m starting to get into the groove of things a little bit more and starting to play a little bit better golf of late. So it’s an exciting time for me to start playing and play this week and next week and see what happens.”
What happens next is just another example of how good it is to be Stricker these days.
Prior to the first round, he maintained that he would play the upcoming Open Championship only if his game was getting hot at the right time. That’s right – whereas most of his peers are gearing up for the year’s third major championship, Stricker hasn’t even decided whether he’ll play or not.
He’s leaning toward the latter, though. Just 14 days from the opening round at Royal Liverpool, he doesn’t have a plane ticket or a hotel room and certainly hasn’t been working on his stinger off the tee.
“I was thinking if I play well, maybe sneak out a win in one of these two or have a couple of high finishes, the British Open was a possibility.”
Yes, despite being a part-time player and owning just a single top 10 this year and competing in only one of the previous four weeks and two of the previous six and three of the previous nine and four of the previous 13, he still came here thinking about a victory.
He insisted that it’s all about keeping the right mindset.
“You spend a lot of time at home practicing and the shots really don’t matter, you know what I mean?” he said. “You can hit one offline and you’re like, it doesn’t mean anything. Then when you come out here, every shot means something. You’ve got to try and erase that out of your mind and do what you do at home when you’re practicing. So that, I think, is the challenge. You’re playing for keeps. Everything counts.”
So far, so good for Stricker.
Then again, when you rarely play competitive golf and can still go out and get your name on the leaderboard, that’s a familiar refrain.