Tag:steve stricker
Posted on: January 9, 2012 8:24 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 8:28 pm

Stricker bobs, weaves and wins -- as usual

ORLANDO, Fla. -- As nearly everybody knows, a certain greeting has two meanings in Hawaii, both of which seem to fit veteran Steve Stricker's highly entertaining, slightly unnerving golf style to the letter.

Aloha means both hello and goodby in the native lingo, which also happen to be the words in English that often happen in quick succession when Stricker takes the lead into the back nine of PGA Tour events these days.

Stricker, the top-rated player in the field at the tour's season-opener, again found a way to nearly make a big lead into a bigger story in the final round at Kapalua on Monday night, where he again hung on to win by three strokes, despite some ups and downs that made the hillside course seem monotonous.

"I felt it kind of slipping away, but I was patient," he said. "Frustrated, but patient."

It felt kind of familiar.

He entered the final round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions with a five-stroke lead, a figure that should ring familiar for fans of the genial Wisconsin native. In fact, Stricker had a comparably cushy margins in the final hours of both of his PGA Tour wins last year, only to make a meandering, stomach-churning mess out of both before holding on, if not staging comebacks, to ultimately win.

Stricker, who turns 45 next month, led the John Deere Classic by five shots with nine holes left in the final round before he started piling up bogeys and found himself two shots behind rookie Kyle Stanley late in the round. Stricker eventually salvaged a victory with what many called the best clutch shot of the year, delivering a rollicking birdie from an awkward stance in a fairway bunker on the 18th.

A few weeks earlier, when he seemed poised to win the Memorial Tournament with relative ease thanks to a four-shot lead at the turn, his momentum was slowed by a 2 1/2-hour weather delay in the final round. He scraped his way through the trees and sand on his way home, saving par from bunkers on the 16th and 17th, before making a cautious bogey on the 18th to win by a stroke.

"It wasn't pretty," he cracked to tournament host Jack Nicklaus afterward.

This time, Stricker's overnight lead had been quickly pared to a single shot by the time he finished the sixth hole, where he fatted a pitch shot and made a bogey, missing his second putt of the day from four feet. As he did at the Memorial and Deere, though, the resilient veteran found a way to stop the swoon. He rolled in a 23-footer on the eighth, nearly holed a chip shot on the ninth and made a 15-footer on the 12th, all resulting in birdies, to extend the lead to three, giving himself some breathing room.

"I never let up today, but it was tough," he said. "It gets even more tough when you have lead like I had. Overall, I am very proud of what I did today and this week."

He usually makes in interesting. Stricker missed some time last year with a herniated disc in his neck, which wasn't an issue this week. Maybe it was the whiplash of watching his name jumping around on the scoreboard.

With his 12th career win, Stricker moved up one spot to No. 5 in the world. The victory marked the fourth straight season in which he has amassed at least one win, leaving him tied with Dustin Johnson (2008-11) and four behind Phil Mickelson (2004-11) for the longest string of consecutive winning seasons on tour.

Amazingly, the two-time Comeback Player of the Year has amassed seven of his victories in the last three seasons, plus one 2012 start. Moreover, he has eight wins in his past 50 starts, the most of any player.

In all, for a tournament that needed both some CPR and positive PR as a sputtering season opener, Stricker, who at No. 6 in the world is the top-ranked American in the world, was perhaps the ideal winner and the biggest name in the 27-man field.

Stricker had won five of the last six times in which he held at least a share of the lead entering the fourth round, but his lone fumble came at Kapalua two years ago. He'd flirted with winning the season opener twice previously, finishing fourth last year and second in 2008.

Category: Golf
Posted on: December 14, 2011 1:56 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2011 1:57 pm

World ranking: Where 'Yank' is clearly a verb

ORLANDO, Fla. – Tis the season to count your blessings.

Which is a lot easier than counting the top Americans.

Ailing Steve Stricker dropped a spot this week in the official world golf ranking, slipping to sixth, creating the very real possibility that for the first time in 17 years, no American player will be ranked in the top five on the final pecking order of the season.

There has been much written about the American slump at the majors, a record skid that was halted by PGA Tour rookie Keegan Bradley at the PGA Championship in August, but the drought and turnover at the top of the world ranking is becoming increasingly evident.

There are two weeks left in the year. The last time there were no Americans ranked in the season-ending OWGR was in 1994, when international stars Nick Price, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and Jose Maria Olazabal all ranked ahead of No. 6 Fred Couples.

Stricker, bothered by a disc injury to his neck that has left his effectiveness for the 2012 season somewhat in question, turns 45 in February. This week, he is ranked behind Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Adam Scott.

How fast has the landscape changed?

In the final OWGR list of 2010, issued 50 weeks ago, Americans held four of the top seven spots behind Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Stricker. Twelve months earlier, in the Dec. 31, 2009, ranking, the same foursome of Americans held claim to four of the top six spots.

This week, the last member of the group still remaining in the top 10 is Stricker. The last time a season ended without Mickelson or Woods in the final OWGR top-10 of the year was in 1995, when Woods was a sophomore at Stanford.

Ratings can be a capricious, cyclical and fickle barometer, but age often isn’t. Furyk, Mickelson and Stricker all are age 41 or older and Woods, who has been sidelined by surgery or health issues in three of the past four years, turns 36 in two weeks.

Category: Golf
Posted on: November 17, 2011 12:59 am
Edited on: November 17, 2011 2:22 am

Woods, Stricker dream team sent to bed early

ORLANDO, Fla. – Before the matches started, as a means of underscoring the comparative lateness of the hour here in the States, it was noted that if Tiger Woods’ foursomes opener at the Presidents Cup went all 18 holes, it would end sometime around 2 a.m., ET.

Not to worry.

Adam Scott and K.J. Choi sent American fans to bed far earlier than anticipated.

With the worst beating of his career in international play, the former world No. 1 and partner Steve Stricker were buried in 12 holes, suffering a 7-and-6 loss in alternate shot on Thursday at Royal Melbourne.

It matched the worst beating in the history of the Presidents Cup and marked the lone loss on day one by the American side, which jumped to a 4-2 lead.

Even the analysts on the Golf Channel called their play “terrible,” and that was being generous.

Stricker and Woods were 4-0 as a team at the last Presidents Cup matches in 2009, but given the particulars of the present, that likely wasn’t going to happen again this year. Woods hasn’t won in over two years and Stricker hadn’t played in two months because of bulging disc in his neck.

“Unfortunately, they got off to a quick start and we couldn’t keep up,” Woods said.

The Dream Team was pounded across the board. Stricker and Woods were 3 over for 12 holes, didn't win a hole and couldn’t muster a single birdie. Meanwhile, Scott and Choi were solid, and ended the match when the South Korean rolled in a 10-footer. The International team was 3 under over the same stretch.

“The other guys obviously didn’t play their best,” Scott said, charitably.

There were no vestiges of the recent verbal tiff between Woods and Scott’s caddie, Steve Williams, who worked for 13 years for Woods before being fired over the summer. The pairing, the final foursomes match off the tee during the opening day, drew a huge strong, perhaps half the crowd estimated at 25,000 for the day.

If they came to watch an ugly upset, they got one.

Not to put words in his mouth, but somethere, based on his publicly known proclivity for bluntness, Williams is probably calling this one an "arse-whipping."

“It seemed like we were always just a little bit off,” Stricker said.

Since the event began in 1994, the only other time a match went 12 holes was when South Africa’s David Frost beat American Kenny Perry by the same score in 1996.

Have they lost the magic? After a solid start as partners at the Ryder Cup last year, Stricker and Woods lost their last match, 6-and-5, which represented Woods' worst Ryder defeat ever.

Not surprisingly, Woods will be paired with Dustin Johnson in Friday's best-ball format, against Aussies Jason Day and Aaron Baddeley.

Posted on: October 26, 2011 3:59 pm

Stricker and Woods: Still PrezCup's dynamic duo?

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The top-ranked player competing at the Presidents Cup will be arriving to play with a sizeable chunk of competitive rust to shake off.

World No. 4 Steve Stricker, who has paired with great success alongside former world No. 1 Tiger Woods at the last two international cup competitions, still plans to play in Australia next month, but hasn't entered any tournaments beforehand and doesn't expect to.

Stricker’s manager, Jon Heaton of IMG, said the recuperating 44-year-old doesn’t plan to play before the event, set for Nov. 17-20 in Melbourne. Most of the American team will play in the Australian Open or enter the European Tour event in Singapore the week before.

Stricker hadn’t played since the Tour Championship because of a problem with a bulging disc in his neck that prompted a withdrawal a week earlier from the BMW Championship, both staged in mid-September. He has been receiving therapy at his home in Wisconsin and affirmed that he intends to play in Melbourne.

In lieu of tournament action, Stricker plans to work on his game in Arizona before heading to Australia before the matches. Woods, a hugely controversial captain's pick and Stricker's supposed playing partner for the matches, has played once since missing the cut at the PGA Championship, finishing 30th, but is entered in the Aussie Open.

So, wither the Dream Team's fate? The duo was a combined 5-1-1 at the last two Presidents and Ryder matches.

Posted on: September 28, 2011 1:52 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 2:21 pm

Stricker weakness stems from herniated disk

ORLANDO. Fla. -- World No. 4 Steve Stricker’s troubles with continuing weakness in his left arm and shoulder are because of a disk issue in his neck, his examination on Tuesday confirmed.

Stricker received a cortisone shot in his spine last week and was in pain for much of the Tour Championship, before finally feeling better on the weekend. He met Tuesday with a specialist in Wisconsin for an MRI.

His agent at IMG, Jon Heaton, issued an update Wednesday.

"Steve's MRI yesterday confirmed what had been previously thought to be a herniated disk in his neck," Heaton said. "He's not experiencing any pain, but his symptoms continue to be a limitation in his arm strength.

"He's consulting a few specialists and evaluating his treatment options to remedy the condition."

Stricker, 44, is scheduled to play for the U.S. team in the Presidents Cup in six weeks. If he is unable to play, U.S. captain Fred Couples indicated that two-time 2011 winner Keegan Bradley would be added to the team as a replacement.

Stricker, who has two wins this season, is the top-ranked American in the world ranking.

Posted on: September 20, 2011 1:06 pm

Stricker sticks neck out, shows up in Atlanta

ATLANTA -- Right about the time they stuck the medical waiver under his nose and told him he had to sign, Steve Stricker felt like he'd made a miraculous recovery.

As he was being prepped Monday for an injection in his spinal cord designed to alleviate the pain that caused his withdrawal from the BMW Championship last Friday, he was told the procedure carried a "slight risk of paralysis," he said.

Stricker, 44, recounted the moment Tuesday when he arrived to start practicing for the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club.

"Sweeeeet," Stricker deadpanned. "I think I feel a lot better now."

Stricker, the top-ranked American in the world at No. 5, went ahead with the procedure, administered at University of Wisconsin's hospital in his hometown, Madison. He was given a cortisone injection in the left side of his neck, during which, the needle was positioned between the C6 and C7 vertebras.

Stricker has a nerve issue in the left side of his neck and shoulder that has greatly affected the strength in his left arm.  The shot didn’t immediately fix the issue.

"I don’t feel any different right now," Stricker said beforeheading to the range to hit balls. "They said it should take effect in 3-5 days."

By then, the tournament, which begins Thursday, will be well under way. Stricker enters the week at No. 12 in FedEx Cup points and needs to win, at minimum, to take the $10 million bonus. Jim Furyk won the bonus last year after starting the week at No. 11, so it's hardly inconceivable.

Stricker withdrew after the second round of the BMW Invitational last week, ending his run of consecutive weeks in the money -- often mischaracterized as a cut streak -- halted after 40 weeks, more than twice the length of the next-best player.

He had no idea at the time that the mark would end. Not that it mattered. He withdrew after shooting a 1-under 70, so he was clearly having pain issues.

"I read about it on-line," he said of the streak. "It wouldn’t have changed the decision, though. But it did kind of bum me out."

Stricker said he didn’t watch the procedure, exactly -- at least, not the part where a lengthy needle was jabbed into the front of his neck. Laying on his back, he watched three television screens in the treatment area, which showed his spinal cord from three different areas. His spine looked as think as his forearm on the screen, so it was obviously not to scale.

 "They were dealing with fractions of an inch," he said.
He withdrew with the hopes of contending this week at East Lake. He is one of six players with two victories this season and a win at East Lake not only could deliver an $11.4 million payday on Sunday, but his first Player of the Year title.

It looks like a longshot. Over the past four years, Stricker has only once finished in the top half of the 30-man field at East Lake, when he was sixth in 2009.

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