Stricker's schedule paying off, could be blueprint for others

By Jason SobelMarch 27, 2013, 10:29 pm

HUMBLE, Texas – Hey, did you hear the one about the old professional golfer? He didn’t retire – he just lost his drive! You know, speaking of retirement, it’s no pressure, no stress and no heartache – unless you play golf!

Without turning the local 19th hole into a Chuckle Hut with a two-drink minimum, the cross-referenced list of golf and retirement jokes is as long and painful as it usually takes to tell them. We get it. People get old, they stop working, they play more golf, hilarity ensues. (Hold the hilarity.)

When it comes to elite-level pros, the stark reality is that old golfers never retire. As Neil Young might shriek, they either burn out or fade away.

Jerry Barber is the oldest player to play in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event, competing in the 1994 Buick Invitational at the age of 77 years, 10 months and 9 days. You’ll never believe it, but he missed the cut. Arnold Palmer was 74 when he played for the last time. Gary Player was 73 – but that’s only if you believe the 1,000 sit-up-a-day marvel won’t plan a comeback anytime soon.

All of which leads us – as methodically as one of those tired jokes – to Steve Stricker.

At 46, Stricker would like everyone to know that he’s neither old nor retired, though the latter needs a little more explanation. The 12-time champion has elected to play what is artfully being called a “selective schedule,” which shouldn’t be confused with other elite players’ “selective schedules” because, well, it’s even more selective.

So far this season, he has played three events, with this week’s Shell Houston Open serving as his fourth. As of now, the plan is to compete in 11 total tournaments, though Stricker maintains his competitive juices could get the better of him later in the year.

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“That can change, I guess, depending on how I play the next seven events or eight events,” he admitted. “If I'm up high on the FedEx Cup or if I have an opportunity to make the Presidents Cup team, I maybe play the playoff events, something like that. I still plan on playing my 11 and going from there.”

Whatever he’s doing is working. Stricker finished in sole possession of second place at the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, in a share of fifth at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and added another solo second at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. He's already racked up $1.82 million in earnings, which based on last year’s money list would place him 44th at season’s end without pocketing another dime.

Of course, that’s highly unlikely. While most players need plenty of “reps” – as Tiger Woods famously calls them – in order to contend for titles, the less Stricker plays, the better he seems to fare.

“I always have come out and done fairly well when I'm fresh,” he said. “Whether that's a mental thing, I don't know. But I enjoy coming out. I feel like I'm a little bit easier on myself. I'm fresher mentally. I feel like there's a little more bounce in my step.”

All of which should lead to one very important question: If Stricker can play some of his best golf with a limited schedule, can this strategy serve as a blueprint for the likes of fellow 40-somethings Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Jim Furyk in coming years?

It’s a relevant query with so many big-name stars reaching the point in their careers where the week-in, week-out grind may not hold much allure. Playing less affords more family time at home while, unlike in previous generations, the need to earn money isn’t much of a dangling carrot. To wit: Stricker’s three-event total this season is just $41,857 behind Palmer’s career haul.

Of course, more professional golfers in their mid-40s are forced into a “selective schedule” than actually select it. Which is to say, you’d better find success if you want to enjoy the spoils.

Based on his eight victories in the previous four years, Stricker is fully exempt on the PGA Tour through the year 2017. If he so chooses, he could then use a one-time top-25 career earnings exemption followed by a top-50 exemption (he’s currently eighth on the all-time list), which would keep him as a full-time member through the age of 52. Failure to play the minimum of 15 tournaments only eliminates his voting privileges for such things as Player of the Year.

Meanwhile, he’s already easily qualified for each of the four major championships and WGC events – a schedule which could someday make him a trailblazer when it comes to how elite players view the back nine of their careers.

“I suppose you could play like that, if you’re exempt for those tournaments,” said 39-year-old Lee Westwood. “I could only talk for myself, but I’ve always felt that I need to play a bit. I find it difficult to take six weeks off and then come back in match fit and ready. But he’s done it his whole career, so why not? You have to do whatever suits you.”

For now, spending his off weeks in snowy Wisconsin while driving his kids to school has suited Stricker just fine – both on and off the course. He attended the Big 10 Conference men’s basketball tournament for the first time and plans on catching a few Final Four games in Atlanta before driving over to Augusta for the Masters. Meanwhile, his peers will be grinding away at the range and practice green, trying to find the form that never seems to leave him.

So, that old joke about retirement being no pressure, no stress and no heartache unless you play golf? It doesn’t apply to Steve Stricker.

Then again, neither does the term retirement.

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'The Golf Club 2019' adds Elvy to commentary team

By Nick MentaJuly 19, 2018, 4:45 pm

“The Golf Club 2019” is adding a new name to its commentary team.

Broadcaster Luke Elvy will join returning announcer and HB Studios developer John McCarthy for the title's third installment.

Golf fans will recognize Elvy from his recent work with CBS in addition to his time with Sky Sports, FOX Sports, TNT, PGA Tour Live and PGA Tour Radio.

A 25-year media veteran from Australia, he now works in the United States and lives with his family in Canada.

"Ian Baker-Finch was my right-hand man on Australian televison," Elvy told in an interview at the Quicken Loans National. "And Finchy said to me, 'What are you doing here? You should be with me in the States.’ He introduced me to a few people over here and that's how the transition has happened over the last five or six years."

Elvy didn't have any prior relationship with HB Studios, who reached out to him via his management at CAA. As for why he got the job, he pseudo-jokes: "They heard the accent, and said, 'We like that. That works for us. Let's go.' That's literally how it happened."

He participated in two separate recording sessions over three days, first at his home back in February and then at the HB Studios shortly after The Players Championship. He teased his involvement when the game was announced in May.

Although he doesn't describe himself as a "gamer," Elvy lauded the game's immediate playability, even for a novice.

“It’s exactly how you’d want golf to be,” he said.

"The Golf Club 2019" will be the first in the HB series to feature PGA Tour branding. The Tour had previously licensed its video game rights to EA Sports.

In addition to a career mode that will take players from the Tour all the way through the FedExCup Playoffs, "The Golf Club 2019" will also feature at launch replicas of six TPC courses played annually on Tour – TPC Summerlin (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open), TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course (Waste Management Phoenix Open), TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course (The Players Championship), TPC Southwind (FedEx St. Jude Classic/WGC-FedEx St. Jude Championship), TPC Deere Run (John Deere Classic), and TPC Boston (Dell Technologies Championship).

“I played nine holes at Scottsdale,” Elvy added. “It’s a very close comparison. Visually, it’s very realistic."

The Golf Club 2019 is due out this August on PlayStation 4, XBOX One, and PC.

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Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 3:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.

Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.

“Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”

The problem was an expired visa.

Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.

No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.

His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.

One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.

His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.

“Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”

He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.

“It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”

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'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

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Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”