PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Stricker's strong showings might pay off soon
Wisconsin star has seven top-10 finishes in career seven starts on PGA TOUR Champions
February 21, 2018
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- February 21, 2018
- Steve Stricker finished tied for second last week at the Chubb Classic. (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Steve Stricker, who turns 51 on Friday, is either 7 for 7 or 0 for 7 on PGA TOUR Champions depending on one’s outlook.
The Wisconsin native tied for second in his first event this season, last week’s Chubb Classic. It was his seventh top-10 finish on PGA TOUR Champions and his second runner-up finish.
But he’s still looking for his first victory as he heads for his next event, the Cologuard Classic (formerly known as the Tucson Conquistadores Classic), beginning March 2 at Omni Tucson National in Tucson, Arizona. It marked his PGA TOUR Champions debut a year ago, and it was his first runner-up finish.
Where Stricker has taken an unquestioned lead is as host and shepherd of the American Family Insurance Championship in his native state. On Monday, American Family Insurance signed a two-year extension with PGA TOUR Champions that will see the event through 2020.
“The community impact of this event has certainly been one of the highlights of my career,” said Stricker, who earlier this week was also named as a vice captain for the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup team. “What’s even better is we’re just getting started. We will continue to make enhancements for the players, volunteers, fans and sponsors while ultimately raising more money for charity.”
The event has raised $2.7 million for charity in its first two years. Stricker played host in 2016 before turning 50 and took up as player/host last year, when he tied for third.
“In two short years, the American Family Insurance Championship has become one of the premier stops on the PGA TOUR Champions schedule, and a tournament our players look forward to with great enthusiasm,” said Greg McLaughlin, PGA TOUR Champions president. “Through the tireless efforts of Steve Stricker and American Family Insurance, this event has positively impacted the community, and we are excited for the future as we look to build on that success.”
Stricker will look to build on his playing success at the Cologuard Classic after missing on another chance to notch his first PGA TOUR Champions victory at the Chubb Classic. Stricker’s second-round 9-under 63 put him in the final group and one shot behind leader Joe Durant, but he stumbled to a final-round 70 while Durant shot a 67 to win by four over Stricker and five others.
“Joe hit some great shots when he had to, put the pressure on all of us when it mattered most, and he played great and started holing some putts on the backside, too,” Stricker said. “Some that he wasn't holing early on, he started to make, and he played great.”
To put Stricker’s 70 in perspective, 29 players shot in the 60s during the final round. Of the players who finished in the top 10, eight of them beat Stricker.
Stricker hit only 13 greens in regulation on Sunday and lamented his putting, though he actually took more putts in his first-round 68. He also failed to make hay on the par 5s. After eagling the first of the four at TwinEagles Golf Club, he parred the next three.
The par on No. 13 is where the final round really turned. Stricker actually led Durant by a shot, but Durant eagled to take the lead and never looked back.
“The par 5s killed me, really,” Stricker said. “I eagled the first one, and then I was in great position on every other one and walked away with pars on all of them. That was really the difference. I hit two good shots at 17 and it flew too far, really, the 3-iron I hit from the fairway. I was trying to hit it in the middle of the green, and it flew over that ridge and kicked way back into not a very good lie.
“It was a dicey chip shot, had a good putt at it, but hit a lot of putts on the edge today, too. The par 5s and not making enough putts were the killers.”
Still, depending on how many times he tees it up on PGA TOUR Champions this year, most of his competitors expect to see Stricker get in the winner’s circle. It could happen at the Cologuard Classic, where he narrowly missed becoming the 19th player to win in his debut. He held a two-stroke lead with three holes to play, only to make a few uncharacteristic mistakes and be overtaken by Tom Lehman.
“I had no question in my mind that it was going to be a tough one to win today, so it didn't surprise me,” Stricker said after his very first event, but with words that still ring true. “They're not going to just lay down and give you a tournament. These guys, they've all proven themselves over the course of their careers and they're out here for a reason. They all play good golf. So I knew it was going to be a challenge today. Winning at any level is a challenge.”