Stricker scaling way back on events in 2013

By Doug FergusonJanuary 3, 2013, 8:32 pm

KAPALUA, Hawaii – At the end of another long year, and only a month away from the start of another season, Steve Stricker quietly posed a question that sounded out of place for a guy with more than $25 million in PGA Tour earnings over the last six years.

''What if I went to Kapalua to defend and didn't play again the rest of the year?''

When he arrived on the shores of Maui for the season-opening Tournament of Champions, he had reached a compromise. Stricker, who turns 46 next month, is going into semi-retirement. When he leaves Kapalua, he won't return again until the Match Play Championship at the end of February.


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He'll play the majors and World Golf Championships that are held in America, maybe a few other tournaments to get ready for the majors, and the John Deere Classic, which has become his hometown event ever since the Greater Milwaukee Open went away.

''I've proved to myself I could come back,'' said Stricker, once mired in a slump so severe he was voted PGA Tour comeback player - two years in a row. ''I had a great run the last six years. I think it's just the travel, the time away. When I get home, I'm not there. I'm focused on where I go next. When I do something, I'm in it. I've had enough of being totally focused on golf and my life. And I wanted to not have it be about me anymore.''

Stricker is wired differently from most. He gets as much pleasure taking his kids to school in Wisconsin as winning golf tournaments. He would rather spend his fall in a deer stand with a bow than on the practice green with his putter.

He has been thinking about cutting back for the last few years, only the decision was never easy. Not when he was as high as No. 2 in the world, a regular on U.S. teams in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup.

Even with some winter stubble after nine holes of practice on the Plantation Course at Kapalua, he looked fresh and ready to go.

''I'm excited about the year because I finally made this decision to scale back,'' he said. ''You know me. I've been this way since Day One. I've never played a lot. I enjoy my time at home, and I've tossed around this idea with my family the last couple of years. Finally making a decision to scale back has lifted a little bit of a burden from me. I'm just as excited to play this week as I've ever been.''

Stricker won the Tournament of Champions a year ago for his 12th career win, although that turned out to be the highlight of his year. In one of the more peculiar trends, he became the third straight player to win the PGA Tour's opener and not win again the rest of the year.

He faces a 30-man field of PGA Tour winners that is missing some of the top stars, no longer unusual in this global landscape of golf with Europeans competing deep into November, and some international players, such as Ernie Els, starting next week in South Africa. Among those absent from Kapalua are Rory McIlroyTiger Woods, Luke Donald and Justin Rose, the top four players in the world ranking.

Stricker won't see many of them until he gets to Arizona for the Match Play Championship.

At least he's not walking away entirely. Over the last few weeks, he looked at the schedule and didn't feel he could miss the big events, particularly the majors. He hasn't set a number of events he wants to play, but it will be somewhere around 10.

What to do with all that free time? It won't be limited to a car pool or a deer stand. Stricker is forming a foundation with a new sponsor, American Family Insurance, with the goal of helping adolescents. The seed money comes from the charity donation he received for winning the Payne Stewart Award and playing on the Ryder Cup team.

His other sponsors – Titleist, Avis and the New York Stock Exchange – are behind his decision to cut back. Stricker has restructured his endorsement deals because he is playing less, and he plans to do more personal days with clients.

''I was prepared to lose all that, I really was,'' Stricker said. ''For the most part, they're happy for me.''

He still hasn't talked to PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. Stricker is one of the most popular figures on Tour because of the way he treats people. For now, this semi-retirement does not include The Players Championship or even the FedEx Cup playoffs, even if he has a reasonable shot at the $10 million bonus.

He would play the Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup if he qualifies. With his limited schedule, he would be playing some good golf.

And yes, he'll still practice. His 14-year-old daughter, Bobbi Maria, is a natural athlete who is getting into golf. There were a few times last year she wanted to go to the golf course with his dad, but Stricker feared he wouldn't get any work done on his game.

''Now I can put in some time with her,'' Stricker said. ''She's talked about hitting more balls in the winter. I can spend more time with her doing that, and playing with her in the summer if she wants to.''

The strongest part of her game? Stricker smiled.

''She putts good,'' he said.

Part of Stricker wishes he had done this sooner, but the time didn't seem right. He would emerge from his fall break to play in the World Challenge hosted by Tiger Woods, and then Greg Norman's Shootout in Florida, and he found himself not wanting to leave.

''The coolest part is I'm playing as good as I ever have,'' Stricker said. ''I've accomplished a lot of things. I proved to myself I can come back from where I was and I played great for an extended period of time. The major thing is missing, but that's not hugely important to me. I don't have to win a major. Obviously, I'd love to. But it's not going to define who I am. It's all good. I feel like I'm doing this for the right reason.

''I felt like it would be a bold move a couple of years ago, and I think it's a bold move now,'' he said. ''Some people might think it's not a good idea. But I think it is for me.''

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1

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Perez (T-3) looks to remedy 'terrible' major record

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 7:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez’s major record is infinitely forgettable. In 24 Grand Slam starts he has exactly one top-10 finish, more than a decade ago at the PGA Championship.

“Terrible,” Perez said when asked to sum up his major career. “I won sixth [place]. Didn't even break top 5.”

It’s strange, however, that his status atop The Open leaderboard through two rounds doesn’t seem out of character. The 42-year-old admits he doesn’t hit it long enough to contend at most major stops and also concedes he doesn’t exactly have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the game’s biggest events, but something about The Open works for him.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I didn't like it the first time I came over. When I went to St. Andrews in '05, I didn't like it because it was cold and terrible and this and that,” he said. “Over the years, I've really learned to like to come over here. Plus the fans are so awesome here. They know a good shot. They don't laugh at you if you hit a bad shot.”

Perez gave the fans plenty to cheer on Friday at Carnoustie, playing 17 flawless holes to move into a share of the lead before a closing bogey dropped him into a tie for third place after a second-round 68.

For Perez, links golf is the great equalizer that mitigates the advantages some of the younger, more powerful players have and it brings out the best in him.

“It's hard enough that I don't feel like I have to hit perfect shots. That's the best,” he said. “Greens, you can kind of miss a shot, and it won't run off and go off the green 40 yards. You're still kind of on the green. You can have a 60-footer and actually think about making it because of the speed.”