Posted on: November 16, 2011 10:30 am
Edited on: November 16, 2011 10:45 am

Cup pairings not exactly Presidential in timbre

ORLANDO, Fla. – Wake up, America.

Boy, are we missing the overnight news cycle.

While many in the States were sleeping, the pairings for the first day of play at the Presidents Cup were issued, and event organizers are hardly taking the high road when it comes to controversial matchmaking, or gleaning every ounce of juice they might generate.

Not quite two weeks after caddie Steve Williams used a racial term to describe part of former boss Tiger Woods’ anatomy, Woods and Williams’ new boss, Adam Scott, were placed in the final opening-day foursome off the tee as matches begin Thursday in Australia.

That’s hardly all that happened overnight, either, but foisted things first.

After organizers at last week’s Aussie Open declined to pair Scott and Woods, the two captains at the PrezCup wasted no time in putting the pair together, sending them out last on the first day of matches. Reaction was swift.

*The PGA Tour, which runs the event, took no disciplinary action against Williams for uttering the perceived racial slur, but isn’t above using any tension with Woods to hype the event? Nice. Hypocrisy take a 1-up lead.

*Secondly, Woods was a highly controversial selection to the U.S. team to begin with – two-time winner Keegan Bradley, the only Yank to win a major this year, was passed over -- and the tour is clearly milking Woods for all he’s worth.

*If you had forgotten that this is an exhibition, consider yourself reminded. The Aussie Open didn’t pair Woods and Scott because it would have been disruptive to the tournament proper.

*But the Presidents Cup is a soap opera, not a real tournament, and not above pandering to draw eyeballs in a time zone 16 hours away from the U.S. eastern time zone. In fact, this thing looks more like pro wrestling that professional golf. Maybe the Rock ought to be tapped as a future assistant captain, not Michael Jordan.

*Despite some misdirection from U.S. captain Fred Couples --or maybe he was just a mite confused, as usual -- Woods was indeed paired with Steve Stricker in the opening matches. The duo has been hugely successful in 2009 and 2010 as dance partners and Woods was 5-0 at the Presidents Cup two years ago in San Francisco. Yeah, we're sure you're as shocked as we are.

At 2 a.m. ET, the tour announced that the 2015 Presidents Cup would be staged at an undetermined in golf-crazed South Korea, which represents a savvy move. The Ryder Cup, the granddaddy of all international matches, isn’t held outside the U.K. or the United States, and the decision to stage the PrezCup in Asia for the first time is shrewd for a variety of reasons.

The European Tour has a better grip on Asian markets already, co-sanctioning several events with other tours, and this will insinuate the PGA Tour into more homes and markets. Not to mention that this year’s International team at Royal Melbourne has three Koreans on the roster.

In an unrelated note, yet one that will generate plenty of chatter going forward, it was announced Wednesday that Woods will skip playing the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines in January in order to play for pay at the European Tour event the same week in Abu Dhabi.

Woods has won seven tournaments at Torrey and only once has finished outside the top 10 – last year. The blowback will be at least two-fold: Woods will get ripped for blowing off his most successful venue for a payday, and speculation will heighten about where he will play on the West Coast instead, be it at Pebble Beach, Riviera or wherever.

Woods frequently played the Dubai event in the EuroTour's Desert Swing, but his contract expired this year, and he was fined for spitting on a green in the final round. Interestingly, the Abu Dhabi event is run by IMG, Woods' former managament agency.

Though he hasn't won anywhere in over two years, Woods reportedly commands a $2 million appearance fee, the top figure in the game.

Based on what just happened at the Presidents Cup, what are the odds that Woods will be "drawn" with Rory McIlroy over the first two days?

Warm up those eyebrows, people, because there's plenty of wattage in the sarcasm meter these days.

Here are the opening pairings for tonight's foursomes (alternate shot) matches:





Posted on: November 15, 2011 9:46 am

Rested Stricker back in stars and stripes

Steve Stricker is present and accounted for at the Presidents Cup.

Now, as for the actual accounting of his matches, we'll wait and see.

Stricker, 44, hasn’t played in seven weeks because of a bulging disc in his neck that prompted a withdrawal from the FedEx Cup event in Chicago in September, and a cortisone shot that followed, but said Tuesday at Royal Melbourne that rust will not be an issue.

Not to bury the guy with more pressure, but Stricker is quite likely crucial to the hopes of the Americans, who seek to avoid a repeat blowout like the last time the Yanks ventured to Royal Melbourne in 1998.

At world No. 5, Stricker is the top-ranked player on the U.S. team, and he had two victories this season. Paired with Tiger Woods at the last couple of international-team competitions, they were formidable pair in 2009 at the Presidents Cup matches in San Francisco, where Stricker made miles of putts to help Woods finish with a career-best 5-0 mark for the week.

With Woods’ game clearly in transition, and Stricker coming off a long layoff, the Dream Team looks anything but impervious. In fact, Stricker said it’s no sure thing they will be paired, though it seems unlikely that U.S. captain Fred Couples wouldn’t at least send them off in the Thursday’s opening matches as a tandem.

“No, you know what, it's not set in stone,” Stricker said Tuesday in Melbourne. “We'll start talking about it, I'm sure, today and tomorrow. I'm sure we'll go out at some point. I'm not sure which format or what yet. Yeah, there are a lot of possibilities.”

But the most important news is that Stricker says he feels healthy. He reported a loss of strength in his left arm from the nerve issue when he withdrew from the BMC Championship, and was still hurting in the early staged of the Tour Championship in Atlanta a week later. He had a cortisone shot on Monday of Tour Championship week.

“You know, after I got through the Tour Championship feeling pretty good after the cortisone shot, and I felt like I had that six-week period to kind of rest and do some rehabilitation on it and stuff like that, then I thought it would be all right,” he said. “So it's really a non-issue. It really feels a lot better.

“It's a good test these next few weeks. I go back to States, I have one week off, and I play a couple more events. I'll see how it goes in this next three- to four-week period.” 

Stricker's status was uncertain for weeks, to the point that Keegan Bradley was designated as his stand-in, in the event that Stricker needed surgery or additional rehab work for the neck issue. 



Category: Golf
Posted on: September 23, 2011 5:51 pm

Stricker pain makes PrezCup suddenly seem iffy

ATLANTA -- So much for the cortisone shot.

Steve Stricker, the highest-ranked American in the world at No. 5, had to withdraw from the PGA Tour event last week because of a nagging issue in his neck and left shoulder, was visibly grimacing by the time he finished the second round at the Tour Championship on Friday.

Stricker had a cortisone shot administered in his spine Monday at home in Madison, Wis., and was told it would take 3-5 days for optimal results. Well, the meter's running and he certainly looks the worse for wear at the moment.

Looking for any sort of help, Stricker, 44, played with an adhesive brace on his shoulder during a second-round 70 that left him five shots off the lead.

"My whole upper body feels cruddy," Stricker said. "There's no strength at all."

Stricker said he has scheduled a follow-up appointment with a shoulder specialist in Madison for Tuesday and expects to take an MRI. He hardly seemed resolute that he was a lock to play in the Presidents Cup, set for Nov. 17-20, and said he would wait until the exam and then see what the doctor prescribed for his treatment regimen.

He hasn’t lost his sense of humor, at least. The injury will have one minor benefit.

Before they applied the adhesive brace to his neck and shoulder area, they had to remove body hair in the area. All of it.

"They shaved my back hair," he laughed, "so my wife is going to like it."

Category: Golf
Posted on: September 16, 2011 7:43 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2011 7:45 pm

BMW crash: Stricker streaks end with WD

LEMONT, Ill. -- Five-time tournament winner Tiger Woods didn't make the field.

Fan favorite Phil Mickelson is out of contention.

Now the top-ranked American in the world is headed up I-94 through Friday rush-hour traffic to his home in Madison, Wisc.

Not good news for the folks at beleagured Cog Hill as the chilly weekend approaches.

Despite finishing with a 1-under 70 in the second round, player-of-the-year candidate Steve Stricker withdrew from the BMW Championship with a neck issue.

Stricker, ranked fifth in the world, withdrew despite managing four birdies. He was tied for 59th had he not withdrawn and was looking at an 8:35 a.m. tee time Saturday in unseasonably cold conditions, expected to be in the high 40s when play starts at 7:25.

In five years of FedEx play, Stricker is the lone player never to have missed a round. Also, his streak of 40 consecutive PGA Tour events in the money has ended at 40.

Stricker won;t earn any points this week as a result of the withdrawal, but he is assured of a spot in Atlanta already, because he began this week at No. 8 in FedEx Cup points. He is projected to fall to 12th.

Jim Furyk won the FedEx crown last year despite missing one of the four series events.

As for Mickelson, he shot a 2-over 73 Friday and fell into a tie for 55th, 14 shots off the lead.

The longest cut streak on tour is now held by Masters winner and U.S. rookie Charl Schwartzel at 18 in succession.

Category: Golf
Posted on: June 3, 2011 6:34 pm

Stricker is No. 1 after a 'one' at Muirfield

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Steve Stricker pulled out a Sharpie, scribbled his signature on a Titleist Pro-V1x and handed the ball to the gentlemen who had served as the scorer for his threesome on Friday at the Memorial Tournament.

It'll probably take a day or so before the guy realizes what he has, because Stricker didn't mention that it was the ball he used to take the lead with something akin to a lightning strike.

Part of a pack of players fighting for the lead in the second round, Stricker aced his 17th hole and then birdied the last to take a three-shot lead into the third round at Muirfield Village.

Stricker used the same ball on both holes, then gave it away without a second thought or telling the guy which ball he was handing over.

"It's just a ball," he said.

Au contraire.

If Stricker ends up winning the tournament, the ace he recorded on the eighth hole, his second-to-last of the second round, might be the difference. It was just the second he had managed in PGA Tour play. The last came in the final round at Phoenix in 1997 on the famous 16th hole.

Though rowdy fans usualy pack that particular hole, almosgt nobody recalls the ace that won Stricker an Oldsmobile sedan. A day earlier, Tiger Woods made his incredibly raucous raise-the-roof ace on the same hole, which has been replayed a million times since because fans came unhinged.

"What, you didn't see mine that year?" Stricker deadpanned.

Uh, no. Apparently, few did.

"I had teed off on the back nine first," Stricker recalled, laughing. "So there were not a lot of people out there."

In a classic Stricker moment, he was asked what he did with the car he won. Midwestern and sensible to the core, Stricker said, "I used it for a little while and then traded in for a mini-van."

Category: Golf
Posted on: June 2, 2011 2:28 pm

Stricker putting super in superstition

DUBLIN, Ohio -- There are no baseball dugouts in golf, no verboten chatter between teammates. Heck, thera are no teammates.

Which doesn't mean some of the same superstitions don't hold true in golf.

When a certain sensitive topic was raised with veteran Steve Stricker, he feigned anger and said, "I don't want to talk about it. Why would you bring that up?"

The topic was his PGA Tour-leading cut streak, which stands at 32 events in succession and encompasses parts of three seasons. The last time the Wisconsin native failed to play on the weekend was at the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine.

So if he was acting like a pitcher throwing a no-hitter, he's got good reason. No sense jinxing himself, right?

Interestingly, the veteran's record at the Memorial Tournament will sound familiar. He has played at the Memorial 11 times and missed only one cut, but never posted a top-10 finish. That's one jinx he would gladly break.

"I am looking foward to changing that this week," he said.

Stricker shot a 4-under 68, which matched his best round ever at Muirfield Village and was only the fifth time in 42 tournament rounds that be posted a score below 70 at the widely hailed Nicklaus venue.


Category: Golf
Posted on: April 8, 2011 3:04 pm
Edited on: April 8, 2011 3:19 pm

Stricker has front-row seat to familiar scene

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Either way, I guess Steve Stricker was safe if he called Fred Couples a "leader."

Two years ago, Couples served as the captain of the Presidents Cup team, and Stricker was a key member. But after what Couples wrought on Friday at Augusta National, he's again the old-fashioned type of leader, too.

Couples shot a 4-under 68 on Frieday and is right back where he annually seems to be, despite his age, balky back and occasional disinterest -- among those atop the Masters scoreboard.

It's not quite every year without fail, but it sure seems that way. Couples was sixth last year as a 50-year-old, and was in the mix deep into the back nine in 2006, then he eventually finished T3 after his putter betrayed him.

Stricker played with Couples the first two days and was amazed at how well Couples can still contend out here with the younger set.

"He still hits it really well, has a lot of length, is a good iron player, and putts it great," Stricker said. "It was cool."

Stricker didn't hesitate when asked if he thinks Couples -- who won the Masters some 19 years ago -- has enough gas to finish this thing off on the weekend.

"I think he can, the way he's hitting it," Stricker said. "He's won here before, so that has to give him a little confidence."

Couples was blowing it past the younger Stricker and Luke Donald off the tee, not that either are particularly long hitters, as Stricker admits. But still.

"He can still step on it if he wants to," Stricker said. "And he has a good attitude around here."

Couples will again serve as the Presidents Cup captain later this fall in Australia, and Stricker will likely make the team.

"If he wanted to, if his back was in good enough shape, he could probably make the team," Stricker said.
Category: Golf
Posted on: September 6, 2010 4:31 pm

Woods grip on No. 1 holds tight

NORTON, Mass. -- For Strick and Mick, the outcome on Monday was the same.

The same could also be said for Tiger Woods.

Thanks to the final-round sputtering of Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker at TPC Boston, not to mention more improved play from Woods himself, the man sitting at world No. 1 will again remain unchanged.

Both No. 2 Mickelson and No. 4 Stricker could have overtaken Woods in the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship, but Woods' current reign will extend to its 274th straight week heading later this week into Chicago.

Woods finished with a 68 to post three straight rounds in the 60s for the first time all year and was T13 as the leaders were finishing Monday afternoon. Because Woods finished inside the top 24, it meant that Mickelson and Stricker had to win to unseat him from his perch.

Neither came remotely close.

As Mickelson played the par-5 seventh, he was 50 feet short of the flag in two, pitched to 6 feet and missed a putt that would have moved him within three shots of the leaders and into a tie for fifth. From then on, he went straight backward, making a double bogey on the 10th and three-jacking for bogey from seven feet on the 11th. 

Just like that, he fell nine shots off the lead with a half-dozen holes left in his final round. This marked the 11th straight start in which Mickelson, who has never been ranked first, had a chance to unseat Woods and didn't deliver.  

Stricker, who started the day T4, bogeyed two of his first three holes to fall seven off the early pace.

Woods, who continued his gradual improvement of the past few weeks, is the defending champion at the BMW Championship, which begins Thursday. He won by eight shots at Cog Hill last year and lives to play another week at the top dog in the game

“Well, I've just got to keep playing well,” he said. “Winning takes care of everything -- the world rankings, player of the year awards, all the trophies and things that come with it. That only happens when you win.  Most of my career I've been able to do that, and I just haven't done it this year.”

As it relates to the ability of others to catch him in the rankings while at his career nadir, that hasn’t mattered.

Category: Golf
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