SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – After another winter spent in competitive hibernation, Steve Stricker didn’t hesitate when asked why he opted to make the Waste Management Phoenix Open his first official PGA Tour start in more than five months.
“The weather,” Stricker said. “I was working on my game and wanted to get it going and get some competitive golf in me, since it’s been a while. So it was good to get out here.”
Stricker has not played an official event since The Northern Trust in August, but he showed few signs of rust Thursday at TPC Scottsdale, closing with birdies on four of his final six holes to shoot a 3-under 68 that left him two shots off the early lead.
Stricker captained the U.S. squad to victory last fall at the Presidents Cup, and he admitted he didn’t even think about playing until a few weeks before the QBE Shootout in early December, where he teamed with Sean O Hair for the win. After another winter that included his “normal thing of hunting,” the 50-year-old started to turn his attention back to competing with players half his age.
“Right after Christmas, it always gets me going. I always want to start,” Stricker said. “We thought about going to Hawaii and we didn’t go there, and we thought about CareerBuilder and didn’t go there. And I was starting to get itchy to get going.”
Stricker is fully exempt after finishing 115th in FedExCup points last season, and he plans to play about 13-15 events on the main circuit in addition to a “handful” of starts on PGA Tour Champions.
“I guess it all depends on where I’m playing well,” he said. “If I can get off to a good start out here and play some good golf out here, I’ll probably tend to lean more toward playing out here.”