Stricker overcoming distractions, sets new direction
July 02, 2014
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Steve Stricker will be joined by his wife, Nicki, to take on the Old White TPC course. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
RELATED: Stricker's Round 1 scorecard
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Less was more for Steve Stricker in 2013.
He only played in 11 PGA TOUR events last year and finished 10th or better in eight of them. Stricker was runner-up a phenomenal four times and he made such a strong run through the FedExCup Playoffs that he faced a difficult decision before the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
Should he play in the finale or go on a previously scheduled elk hunting trip to Colorado? Golf ended up winning out, and Stricker tied for second at East Lake, which propelled him to third place in the FedExCup and earned him a $2 million bonus.
The abbreviated schedule hasn't produced the same kind of results for the 47-year-old this season, though.
Entering The Greenbrier Classic this week, Stricker has played in seven events and a tie for sixth at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance is his only finish among the top 10. A year ago, he had four top-10s at the same juncture and ranked 19th in the FedExCup -- Stricker is 131st right now.
To be fair, though, Stricker wasn't really focused on golf earlier this year. His older brother Scott spent three weeks in intensive care prior to a successful liver transplant the week before the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Stricker's brother is doing much better now, though, and the soft-spoken man from Wisconsin is finally able to concentrate on what he does best.
"Last year was a really good year," Stricker said. "I didn't really expect what I did last year. This year is probably a little bit more what I expected although I had some distractions earlier in the year and then I kind of lost my focus and my direction a little bit.
"But that's coming around now and I'm starting to play a little bit better and I'm playing more at home now which helps. ... I'm excited. I love doing what I'm doing."
Stricker is playing this week at The Greenbrier Classic, his first tournament since a tie for 21st at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst. His wife Nicki will be his caddie, as she did early in his career before their two daughters, who are now 13 and 8, started school.
"She's my best friend, really," Stricker said. "We've always gotten along really well on the golf course, so it's nice to do it once in a while. She said to me this week it's like she's never left. So she feels comfortable doing it. It's a fun week for us."
Although he hasn't been as consistent tee to green as he was a year ago, Stricker's game appears well-suited to the Old White TPC course where he tied for 22nd in his only other appearance.
"I don't think it favors a bomber," said Stricker, who averages 282 yards off the tee. "I don't think it favors a short hitter. I think you've got to hit it straight. You've got to stay out of the rough, and you've got to hit some decent iron shots. The greens are putting well. ...
"It's going to take a well-rounded player playing at the top of his game this week. You're not going to fake it around here at all, I don't think."
Stricker will also be playing in next week's John Deere Classic, a tournament that is very dear to him. Stricker, who lives less than three hours away, won the event three consecutive years starting in 2009.
Right now, he's leaning on not going to The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. But Stricker's plans could change depending on how he plays in the next two weeks -- after all, he wants to make the Ryder Cup team and points are doubled in the major championships this year.
"If I do something special here this week or next week and get a lot more points, then I would probably go," said Stricker, who currently ranks 40th in the U.S. Team standings.
At the very least, Stricker expects to play in perhaps as many as six more events before the end of the year.
"My focus is getting a little bit better and things are starting to look up," he said. "I'm starting to play, like I said, better and looking forward to what lies ahead the rest of the year."
Steve Stricker comments before The Greenbrier