COMMENTARY | It's fair to say that at age 46 Steve Stricker doesn't have dozens of opportunities left to be in the final group and hoist the winner's trophy. Statistically, that is.
His back is starting to give him trouble. Many years on the PGA Tour have likely started to wear on him. He has even declared his intention to cut back on the number of tournaments he is going to play this year.
Although, he's already fifth on the all-time list for most wins after age 40, so he could certainly surprise everyone. He's obviously still got the desire, ability, and that intangible fire to compete.
Stricker has 9 wins since turning 40 six years ago, now following just Julius Boros (10), Kenny Perry (11), Sam Snead (17), and the untouchable superstar of mid-life golf Vijay Singh with 22.
His beautifully consistent one-piece swing could certainly keep him as a force to be reckoned with as he marches toward playing the Champions Tour in 2017.
Few have had the tremendous highs and lows of Stricker, who after joining the tour in 1994 had two wins during the 1996 season. He continued to be a gentleman journeyman making a nice living until his WGC win in Australia in 2001.
Then things began to unravel.
Devastatingly, Stricker lost his tour card in 2004. Most guys would just start applying for college coaching jobs at that point.
Not a pro from north country, however. Any guy growing up who had to hit balls in his garage and basement 5 months a year because of the snow and cold of a Wisconsin winter was going to find a way to orchestrate his return.
(Somewhere on the senior tour, Minnesota-native Tom Lehman, who almost took a job as golf coach at the University of Minnesota, is nodding his head.)
Stricker roared back with some sponsor exemptions and loads of hard work. He was named Comeback Player of the Year in 2006. Since then he has built an impressive resume, making the most in earnings for any player who has not won a major.
So what happened at Doral was simply quite poetic. And as most of the challengers save Stricker failed to find their game Sunday, March 10, everyone could see it coming.
Earlier in the week, Tiger had approached Stricker, one of the best putters on tour, and asked for some advice. Stricker noticed his good pal Tiger was standing a little open at address, gave him a little mini lesson, corrected the issue, shook his hand, and sent him on his way.
For Tiger, that little tip led to a week on the hard, fast greens of Doral that the weekend golfer only dreams about. Heck, maybe that professionals only dream about. A total of 100 putts. Victory No. 76. His first WGC win in five years. A big trophy. A $1.5 million winner's check. Not bad.
Now there is nothing wrong with finishing second playing against the strongest field the tour could muster and coming up just two shots shy of the greatest player in the game. Nothing at all. Surely, Steve and Nicki won't have a problem finding a place for the $880,000 check they received for their work.
But one can only imagine what they were saying as they walked off the 72nd hole, looking at the leaderboard and seeing just one name between Steve and victory #13 at age 46.
"Nice going bonehead," she may have whispered with a smile.
Hey, it could have happened.
Steven Stromberg owns a 4 handicap and is a two-time club champion in Minnesota. He played college golf in the third windiest city in the nation and collects and studies vintage golf equipment and memorabilia. He also writes a bi-weekly column with his daughter Lauryn for the Eden Prairie News, Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
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