Wisconsin native Stricker the main man this week

By Associated PressAugust 12, 2010, 12:52 am

2010 PGA Championship

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – No pressure or anything, Steve Stricker. There’s only an entire state hanging on your every shot at the PGA Championship.

Wisconsin’s favorite golfer is generating the kind of frenzy normally reserved for Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson at Whistling Straits this week. Fans line every hole he plays, asking for his autograph and wishing him well. His mere appearance on the green prompts hearty applause. The governor gave him a shoutout. Some kids are even running around the course in bright green “Stricker’s Soldiers” T-shirts.

“Do I feel extra expectations? Yeah, I do,” Stricker said Wednesday. “Like I do every other week, I want to play well. But I REALLY want to play well here, you know what I mean?”

With snow covering the ground about half the year, Wisconsin is not exactly known as a breeding ground for golfers. Oh, it produces a standout here and there, but they usually leave their home state for warmer climates when it’s time to get serious about the game.

Which only endears Stricker more to his fellow Cheeseheads. The No. 3 golfer in the world still lives full-time in Madison, trading his clubs for blaze-orange camouflage in the fall.

Steve Stricker at 2010 PGA Championship
Steve Stricker returns home to Wisconsin for the 92nd PGA Championship. (Getty Images)
“I know this is a big deal to him,” said Mike Small, who played and roomed with Stricker at Illinois and now coaches the Illini. “I know he’s under maybe some self-imposed pressure, because he wants to win a major and it being in his home state.”

Not to mention that he missed out the last time Wisconsin played host to a major.

Stricker was one of the game’s rising stars in the mid-1990s, finishing fourth on the money list in 1996 and earning runner-up honors at the 1998 PGA Championship. Five years later, though, his career was in shambles. He made the cut just eight times in 2003 and, for the first time since turning pro, failed to record at least one top-10 finish.

The next year wasn’t any better, so much so that when the PGA made its first visit to Whistling Straits, Stricker wasn’t invited.

“It was difficult. My game, though, was not in any situation to be put on display, either,” said Stricker, who watched the tournament from home. “But it was kind of a shot in the arm, too, showing that I needed to get better and needed to put some extra work in.”

Scraping by on past champions status and sponsor exemptions, Stricker earned comeback player of the year honors in 2006 with seven top-10 finishes, including ties for sixth at the U.S. Open and seventh at the PGA. He became the first player to win the award twice – in consecutive years, no less – in ’07 with his first victory (The Barclays) in more than six years. He also was runner-up in the FedEx Cup and finished No. 4 on the money list.

“It was just dedication again. … And I figured I wasn’t really capable of doing anything else and just had to put the work together,” Stricker said. “I started hitting balls and started changing things, because what I was doing wasn’t really working all that well. A lot to do with it was my attitude. I had a poor attitude going. I didn’t have a lot of confidence.

“My mental approach and my physical game had to change, and that’s what I went to work on at the end of the 2005 season, beginning of 2006. And I still continue to work on the same things today.”

Since his comeback, Stricker has emerged as one of the tour’s most consistent players. He was part of the U.S. team that ended Europe’s Ryder Cup winning streak in 2008. He had his best season yet last year, winning three times and finishing in the top 10 eight other times.

He’s already won twice this year and, at No. 4 in the world, has an outside chance of claiming the No. 1 ranking this week.

“I like to think I’m wiser,” the 43-year-old said, when asked to explain his longevity. “I’ve had, obviously, my ups and downs, and I’ve learned a lot through both those periods. But you can’t replace experience. You learn a lot throughout the course of your career. I’ve been able to experience a lot of different things, and you can use those to your advantage as you go along.

“It’s been a good run, and I would like to continue it.”

About the only thing Stricker lacks now is a major.

For all his consistency the rest of the year, Stricker hasn’t done particularly well in the majors. He has a handful of top 10s since 1998, but he hasn’t cracked the top five at a major in more than a decade.

“If I knew the key, hopefully I would have won by now,” Stricker said. “It’s a little more difficult in the final round of a major. Everything’s a little more intense, the pressure’s a little bit greater. You need to handle that.”

And that pressure will climb even higher this week.

Stricker is doing his best to treat the PGA like any other major. But even the drive to the course reminds him this week is something special – “It feels like home. All I see are corn, soybeans and cows.” – and it’s impossible to block out the love from all corners of Wisconsin.

“To play well in front of the home fans and my family and friends would be an unbelievable experience,” Stricker said. “But you can’t try to do it. You’ve just got to go about your business and take each shot, each day as it comes and try not to put that added extra pressure on myself. Hopefully I can do that.”

 

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Watch: Tiger 'drops mic' in long drive contest

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 20, 2018, 12:44 am

Tiger Woods is in Las Vegas this weekend for the 20th annual Tiger Jam charity event that benefits his foundation.

During the tournament on Saturday afternoon, Woods challenged World Long Drive competitor Troy Mullins to a long drive contest.

 

A post shared by TROY MULLINS (@trojangoddess) on May 19, 2018 at 1:25pm PDT

Safe to say it looks like Tiger won.

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Sunday showdown for Wise, Leishman at Nelson

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 11:40 pm

DALLAS – While the swirling Texas winds may still have their say, the AT&T Byron Nelson is shaping up to be a two-horse race.

With a four-shot gulf between them and their closest pursuers, co-leaders Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise both stepped up to the microphone and insisted the tournament was far from over. That it wouldn’t revert to a match-play situation, even though the two men didn’t face much pressure from the pack down the stretch of the third round and have clearly distanced themselves as the best in the field through 54 holes.

But outside of an outlier scenario or a rogue tornado sweeping across Trinity Forest Golf Club, one of the two will leave with trophy in hand tomorrow night.

That’s in part because of their stellar play to this point, but it’s also a byproduct of the tournament’s new and unconventional layout: at Trinity Forest, big numbers are hard to find.

Even with the winds picking up during the third round and providing the sternest challenge yet, the field combined for only 16 scores of double bogey, and nothing worse than that.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


There’s irony in a course called Trinity Forest offering a tree-less test, sure, but there are also no water hazards in play here. For the most part, players have been maxing out with bogey – and Leishman and Wise have combined for only six of those so far this week.

If someone from the chase pack is going to catch them, the two sharing the pole position aren’t going to do them any favors.

“I don’t really want to give them a chance,” Leishman said. “I’d love to go out and shoot a low one and make Aaron have to shoot a good score tomorrow to beat me, which, I fully expect him to shoot a good score.”

While Leishman has been somewhat of a late bloomer on the PGA Tour, with only one win across his first eight seasons, he now has a golden opportunity to add a third trophy in the last 14 months. He has felt right at home on a sprawling layout that reminds him of a few back in his native Australia, and he’s part of a Down Under invasion on a leaderboard that also includes Matt Jones (-13) and Adam Scott (-9).

While Wise briefly held sole possession of the lead, Leishman has seemingly held an iron grip on the top spot since opening his week with a blistering 61.

“Before last year, I was a pretty slow starter. I always got off to a slow start Thursday, or I’d be fighting to make the cut and have a good weekend to slide into the top 10,” Leishman said. “Getting into that round straight away on the first tee rather than the ninth green or something, which sounds like a really basic thing, but it’s something I didn’t do very well until last year.”

But as Leishman acknowledged, he likely can’t count on a stumble from Wise to help finish off a wire-to-wire victory. As the youngest player to make the cut this week, Wise is facing a challenge of taking down a top-ranked Aussie for the second time in as many starts.

While he came up short at the Wells Fargo Championship, tying for second behind Jason Day, he remains supremely confident that he can put those hard-earned lessons to use this time around.

“I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” Wise said. “It will obviously be a huge day for me. I feel like having one go at it already, I’m a little more confident going into it this time.”

Even among the landscape of the Tour’s promising next wave, Wise stands out as a particularly young gun. Still only 21, he could feasibly be heading to Karsten Creek next week with his Oregon Duck teammates to close out his senior season with another NCAA championship appearance.

But Wise turned pro after winning the NCAA individual title as a sophomore, and he steadily worked his way through the professional ranks: first a win on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, then one last summer on the Web.com Tour.

Now he’s poised to turn what he described as a “lackluster” season before his Quail Hollow runner-up into one that defies even his own expectations.

“Absolutely, I am way ahead of the curve. It’s pretty hard to do what I’ve done at such a young age. Only a few have done it,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”

An unpredictable Coore-Crenshaw layout will have one more day to star, and outside of Wise the top six names on the leaderboard have at least one Tour win to their credit. But after the two men traded punches on a firm and fast afternoon, it sure feels like the final round is shaping up to offer more of the same.

For Leishman, it’s a chance to add another notch to some quickly expanding credentials; for Wise, it’s an opportunity to win on the one level he has yet to do so.

“It’s golf, at the end of the day. If you play better than everyone else, you’re going to win,” Wise said. “That’s why I play it. That’s why I love this sport, and tomorrow is nothing different.”

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5 thoughts from NCAA Women's Championship Day 2

By Ryan LavnerMay 19, 2018, 11:35 pm

The field is almost halfway through stroke-play qualifying at the NCAA Women’s Championship. Here are some thoughts on the first two days at Karsten Creek:

1. UCLA is on a mission. Just a year ago, the Bruins were headed home from regionals after becoming the first No. 1 seed that failed to advance out of the qualifying tournament. This year, with the core of the team still mostly intact, the Bruins have opened up a five-shot lead on top-ranked Alabama and a comfortable 16-shot cushion over Southern Cal in third place. On one of the most difficult college courses in the country, UCLA has received contributions from all four of its usual counters – standout Lilia Vu shot 68 on Saturday, while Mariel Galdiano posted a 69. Freshman Patty Tavatanakit and junior Bethany Wu also broke par. This is a strong, deep lineup that will pose issues for teams not just in stroke-play qualifying, but also the head-to-head, match-play bracket.

2. What happened to Arkansas? Riding high off their first SEC Championship and a dominant regional performance, the Razorbacks were considered one of the top threats to win the national title. But entering Sunday’s third round of stroke play, they need to hold it together just to ensure they make the top-15 cut. Arkansas is 32 over par through two rounds. The Razorbacks had shot in the 300s just once this season in the play-five, count-four format. Here at Karsten Creek, they’ve now done so in consecutive rounds.


NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring


3. The Player of the Year race is heating up. With a decent showing at nationals, Arkansas’ Maria Fassi should have been able to wrap up the Annika Award, given annually to the top player in the country. She has six individual titles, plays a difficult schedule and is well-liked among her peers. But through two rounds she’s a whopping 15 over par while spraying it all over the map. If the Razorbacks don’t survive the 54-hole cut, neither will Fassi. That’d open the door for another player to steal the votes, whether it’s UCLA’s Vu or Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho. There’s a lot still to be decided.

4. Stanford has steadied itself. One of the biggest surprises on Day 1 was the horrendous start by the Cardinal, one of just two teams to advance to match play each of the three years it’s been used to determine a national champion. They were 19 over for their first nine holes Friday, but instead of a blowup round that cost them a shot at the title, they’ve found a way to hang tough. Stanford has been just 4 over par over its last 27 holes. Andrea Lee made only one bogey during her second-round 69, Albane Valenzuela eagled the 18th hole for a 73 and senior leader Shannon Aubert – who has been a part of each postseason push – carded a 74. And so, even with its early struggles, coach Anne Walker once again has Stanford in position to reach match play.

5. Karsten Creek is identifying the best teams. The top teams in the country want a difficult host venue for NCAAs – it helps separate the field and draws an unmistakable line between the contenders and pretenders. Only one team (UCLA) is under par after 36 holes. Fewer than a dozen players are under par individually. The dearth of low scores might not be the greatest advertisement for how talented these players are, but the cream has still risen to the top so far: Five top-10 teams currently sit inside the top 7 on the leaderboard (and that doesn’t even include last year’s NCAA runner-up Northwestern). This is all any coach wants, even if the scores aren’t pretty.

Quick hits: Cheyenne Knight, part of Alabama’s vaunted 1-2-3 punch along with Lauren Stephenson and Kristen Gillman, shot rounds of 70-69 to figure in the mix for individual honors. The junior will turn pro after nationals. …  Arizona’s Bianca Pagdanganan made a hole-in-one on the 11th hole Saturday en route to a 68 that tied the low round of the day. She’s at 5-under 139, same as Knight. ... Defending champion Arizona State, which lost star Linnea Strom to the pro ranks at the halfway point of the season, is 35 over par after two rounds. … Play was delayed for nearly an hour and a half Saturday because of inclement weather.

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Wise (21) makes Leishman (34) feel a little old

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 10:55 pm

DALLAS – With the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson likely to take on a match-play feel, Marc Leishman likes his chances to close out another win – even if his opponent makes him feel a little old.

Leishman, 34, shares the lead at Trinity Forest Golf Club with 21-year-old Aaron Wise, who was the youngest player to make the cut at the tournament’s new venue. The two men will start the final round at 17 under, four shots clear of their next-closest pursuers.

Leishman played the third round alongside Wise and Brian Gay, and he originally didn’t realize just how fresh-faced his fellow co-leader is.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


“He’s a solid player for, I heard this morning he’s only 21. I didn’t realize that,” Leishman said. “I guess I was in high school before he was born, so that’s – I don’t know. You hear guys talk about that all the time but I’ve never said that, I think. Yeah, he’s a good player.”

Wise won the 2016 NCAA individual title while at Oregon, and he opted to turn pro after his sophomore season. While he could have been capping his senior season with a return to the NCAAs next week, Wise is pleased with the career choice and remains eager for a chance to close out his first career PGA Tour win against a seasoned veteran.

“I feel like I’m in a great spot for tomorrow,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”