Wednesday, March 3, 2021

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Steve Stricker stays in hunt at Waste Management Phoenix Open

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – It was 40 years ago, so Jerry Kelly could remember only the broadest strokes of when he and Steve Stricker first played together in Wisconsin junior golf.

The latter had just shot 66 to reach 11 under, which put him in the early second-round lead at the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. Stricker hit fairways and greens, took just 24 putts, stayed within himself. At 53, he would be the PGA TOUR’s oldest winner, eclipsing Sam Snead (52 years, 10 months, 8 days) at the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open.


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Did Stricker look like he’d aged much? 

“No,” Kelly said after the two pals plus Padraig Harrington had signed their scorecards at TPC Scottsdale. “Just his hair, that’s it. He had big, blond, shaggy locks back then. That was absolutely vintage Steve. Just get the ball in the fairway, get the ball on the green and try to make putts. He’s got such a great short game. It’s just really consistent, really solid, really good golf. 

“The putter,” Kelly added, “was absolutely fantastic.”

Stricker, who will captain the U.S. Ryder Cup Team at Whistling Straits later this year, admits he sometimes feels overmatched on the PGA TOUR. He admits he wouldn’t have even been here this week had the Ryder Cup not been pushed back from 2020 to later this year. He’s in the field to test his own game, yes, but also to keep tabs on the world’s greatest players. 

He is, after all, just the 459th player in the world, 167th in the FedExCup, and yes, 53.

None of which has phased him. His heroics have not gone unnoticed, and especially not by his potential Ryder Cup players. Brandt Snedeker, for example, saw fit to remind him that the leaders on the PGA TOUR tend to wind up on TV.

“Well, Snedeker is in my kitchen saying, ‘You need to smile, you’re leading the tournament, why aren’t you smiling?’” Stricker said.

Others, too, chimed in with texts Thursday night. He knew he still had to perform Friday. He did. He has 12 TOUR wins, but the last one was back in 2012 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Far more top of mind these days are his five PGA TOUR Champions wins.

Playing each tour, he says, seems to help him perform on the other.

“When I play out here and I go to the Champions Tour event, the courses are a little bit shorter, the pins are a little bit more generous, so playing out here helps me when I go there,” Stricker said. “And then when I go there and get in contention or win an event, I feel that that gives me confidence and motivation to come back out here and play.”

A 13th TOUR win, he said would mean a lot.

“I know it’s a long shot,” he said. “I’ve got to play my very best, just like anybody else does out here, but, you know, I’ve been there. I’ve won a few times out on this TOUR and I know what it takes … It would be fun to see how I handle it if I do get that opportunity.”

Seven players have won on TOUR after turning 50, the last of which was Davis Love III, who was 51 when he captured the 2015 Wyndham Championship. Fred Funk and Craig Stadler were each 50 when they won on TOUR in 2007 and ’03, respectively. 

Now along comes Stricker, who is making 53 seem younger than ever. He’s been taming TPC Scottsdale with his wife, Nicki, as his caddie. Their two grown daughters, Bobbi and Isabella, are among the limited galleries following the action.Could he actually win?

“He totally could,” Kelly said. “There’s absolutely nothing stopping him from doing that.”

History awaits.

Latest Posts

Three pros and an amateur share 18-hole lead at second Mackenzie Tour Q-School

• This is a 72-hole, no-cut event. There will be playoffs, if necessary, for the medalist position and for the sixth and final position...

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LAS VEGAS – MGM Resorts International has agreed to serve as the title sponsor of the Korn Ferry Tour’s first event at Las Vegas Paiute Golf...

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The opening round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard begins Thursday from Bay Hill in Orlando, Florida. The strong field includes Rory...

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