Stricker busy as ever on limited schedule

By Doug FergusonMarch 12, 2013, 10:47 pm

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Steve Stricker is in semi-retirement from the PGA Tour, though it sure doesn't feel that way to him.

Consider the 48 hours since his runner-up finish at Doral.

Stricker had to film an Avis commercial in Los Angeles the next day. When he booked his travel plans, he wasn't aware the final round would end an hour later because of Daylight Savings Time, so he missed his flight. Phil Mickelson offered him a ride on his plane to San Diego, and Stricker took a charter up the coast. He finally got home to Wisconsin at 2 a.m. Tuesday, and then woke up to take his daughters to school before heading off to a meeting with his foundation until the girls got out of school.

He chuckled when talking about a text from caddie Jimmy Johnson that said, ''What are you up to?''

''I feel like I'm busier now than when I played a regular schedule,'' Stricker said. ''But it's all good. I'm doing a lot of things around home with the family, and with what (wife) Nicki and I are doing with the foundation. I'll go to the grocery store with Nicki. And there's still time to do some fun things.''

Deer hunting is done, but Stricker was quick to point out that coyote season is still open. He's thinking about driving down to Chicago one day this week to watch the Big 10 men's basketball tournament.

As for his golf? Not bad for a part-time player.

In three starts this year, he has made $1.82 million and is No. 4 on the money list. He has gone up 10 spots to No. 8 in the world ranking. Stricker was the runner-up at Kapalua and Doral, and he reached the quarterfinals of the Match Play Championship.

He is doing more with less.

And along the way, his profile is as high as it has ever been.

He already was considered as nice a person as there is on the PGA Tour, mainly for his good manners and how he treats people. His father-in-law, Dennis Tiziani, summed it up a few years ago when he said Stricker was ''as considerate talking to a big executive on Tour as he was to the guy working in Aisle 4 at the Home Depot.''

And now he is jokingly referred to as the part-time putting guru of Tiger Woods.

Their meeting Wednesday afternoon at Doral was a planned accident. Woods had wanted to play a practice round with Stricker on the eve of the tournament, but Woods didn't arrive until early afternoon and couldn't find him. It was only after Woods played nine holes and finished his media duties that he saw Stricker on the putting green.

Stricker is humble enough not to help unless asked. He has given Woods a few tips over the years, such as the Presidents Cup in 2011, and they often exchange text messages or chat about the art of putting. This was the longest session, and the most meaningful.

He noticed that Woods had his hands behind the ball and his posture was out of sync, probably from working so much on his long game and the recent hours Woods had spent chipping. Woods walked away feeling as good as he did at Torrey Pines, where he won by four shots. Over the next four days at Doral, he had his fewest number of putts (100) ever on the PGA Tour, made 27 birdies and won by two shots – over Stricker, no less.

Stricker said he told Woods after they finished that session, ''If you put me on your payroll, I could play a little bit less.''

He was genuinely happy to hear that Woods had putted well in the opening round, and the feeling didn't change when Woods finished two shots ahead of him.

Stricker noticed more than just a putting stroke that was back to where it should be.

''His attitude, and what I saw this week, and his belief in himself again looks very similar to where he was in the early 2000s – or you can pick any year, I guess when he was playing great,'' Stricker said. ''Yeah, he just seems in a better place mentally to me. He seems to be having fun. Seems to have a lot of confidence in himself and his game. And that's fun to see.''

Everyone has more fun when they're making putts.

''Now I know how he feels every day,'' Woods said of Stricker. ''No wonder he's always in a good mood.''

Woods is in a good spot with two wins before The Masters. Stricker is in a good spot because he's playing less and looks as good as ever.

''I'm really excited what I'm doing this year,'' Stricker said Tuesday. ''I can tell by my demeanor on the golf course.''

He probably should have done this a few years ago. He felt he owed it to his sponsors to play a full schedule, and he was thrilled when he realized they were on board with him cutting back this year. Even then, he was concerned that he would be criticized by golf fans for not playing as much.

The original plan was to defend his title at Kapalua and walk away. Over the holidays, he struck a compromise of 10 or 11 events.

''What I told Nicki was if I could just make enough money to pay our yearly expenses as a family, I'm fine with that,'' Stricker said at Kapalua. ''If we don't have to touch anything I've put away, I don't need to do what I'm doing just to make money. I'd rather be staying home, doing things at home.

''I wanted to not have it be about me anymore.''

That's what he's doing, and he's making it work beyond his own expectations. He is playing good golf. He has plenty of time for his family.

And he even has time for Woods.

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”