Steve Stricker, Mr. Comeback
Steve Stricker is one of my favorite golfers. I’m not sure why.
Maybe it’s because he’s about to be the same age as me.
Or maybe it’s his calm, cool demeanor.
Perhaps it’s just because of his sheer love of and commitment to the game of golf: He hits balls out of the side of a heated trailer near his home in Madison, Wisconsin during the winter recess.
Leading into the 2012 PGA Tour opener, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions played Friday through Monday at the Plantations Course in Kapalua, Hawaii, I decided to watch the coverage from tee to green because it was the season opener (All the players invited had to have won a PGA event last season)
I also was just interested in seeing the beast that is either of the courses in Kapalua, but in particular the Plantation course.
Also little known to non-golf fans, Steve Stricker was having some medical issues towards the end of last season. He’d had some tingling in his fingers and a weakened left arm, and was concerned he might have to have surgery to address the disk problems with his C6 and C7 vertebrae. Not good news if you’re a professional golfer.
Fortunately, they didn’t have to go to that extreme, and instead Stricker was able to get the problem addressed with a cortisone shot to the neck.
Yes, you heard me right, the neck.
In any case, whatever Stricker did, it worked. Even though last year’s winner Jonathan Byrd took an early lead, by round two Stricker was in control, although not running away, with the tournament.
His drives stuck largely to the middle of the fairways, his putts fell from all distances, and his short game was like watching someone throw darts at the center target at the local pub — and hit the bullseye nearly every time. Save for some errant fairway sand falls, shots also out of which were pure Stricker mastery, the winter golf in Stricker fell away like the shedding of a snakeskin, and he left the 20-something flatbellies pitching in his wake.
Yes, Byrd stayed close on his heels, and Webb Simpson gave him a good day of competition, but it was never enough.
And considering the length of the course, 7411 yards from the tips…well, it’s just a remarkable thing for a 44-year old golfer with nerve problems to have the nerve to take on those young guns and win, and that’s precisely what Stricker did.
Congratulations, Mr. Comeback. Well done.
If that’s any indication of how the 2012 PGA Tour is going to go, I can’t wait for the action to begin at the Sony Open this weekend in Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.