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He’s a 12-time PGA Tour winner, seven-time PGA Tour Champions winner, a Ryder Cup-winning captain, and an all-time great.
But Steve Stricker is doing something this week in Texas that few — if any — saw coming.
This is his first start since falling incredibly ill, a sickness that is still a mystery to this day.
“No. Still don’t know to this day,” he said Friday after his first round at the Insperity Invitational. “There’s a couple theories out there that it was a virus of some sort that they weren’t able to put a name to it.”
He showed little rust to start the week in the Lone Star State, firing an opening-round 5-under 67.
On Saturday, during Stricker’s second round, he kept the good time rolling.
After opening birdie-birdie, the 55-year-old would add three more circles to his card after nine holes to go out with a 5-under 31.
He added three more birdies on the back before bogeying his final hole to shoot a 7-under 65.
“It was a good day. Played really solid, a lot better today than I did yesterday except for a couple shots coming in,” Stricker said Saturday afternoon, “but overall it was much better. Hit it a little bit better and made some good putts.”
Despite his good effort, he admittedly didn’t feel 100 percent.
“There’s times where I just don’t feel like I’m — no one’s going to feel sorry for me, Al, let me put it that way, but yeah, like I told Nicki today, when I woke up today, if this is the way I’m going to feel, I won’t play next week kind of thing just because I don’t feel like my energy is there,” he said.
Stricker’s last PGA Tour Champions win came at the 2021 Bridgestone Senior Players Championship.
Brandt Jobe, one of the co-leaders, has been impressed with Stricker so far this week.
“He’s just got his game in a spot where he can turn it on and turn it off and not many people have been able to do that,” he said after his round Saturday. “Obviously we’re very envious of that because I can’t do that, but he’s got his swing and everything just in a spot where he goes out, he puts the work in, he comes back and it’s like he hasn’t missed a beat.”
Jobe made five straight birdies on Nos. 12-16 on his back nine to get into contention, then added one more at the last to sign for an 8-under 64. Jobe hasn’t won on the PGA Tour Champions since the 2019 Boeing Classic.
Steven Alker, the third and final co-leader, has been on quite the run since the start of the season. His six starts so far in 2022: 2, T-5, T-20, T-15, 1, T-2.
“I was just trying to keep up with Steve Stricker. That’s basically it,” Alker said. ”
After making birdies on 8 and 9, Alker went full psycho-scorecard mode on the back. Birdies on 11 and 12, an eagle on 13, a bogey on 14, an eagle on 15, a birdie on 16, and a bogey on 17 for a grand total 7-under 65. It’s the first time he’s had two eagles in one round on the Champions tour.
“I was just staying aggressive and Steve was playing great. You know he’s not going to make mistakes. Just kept at it and yeah, just pleased to make those couple eagles.”
Alker said he and Stricker found plenty to talk about throughout the day.
“Just about kids really, college, his girls, college and golf. And yeah, it was cool. I haven’t played with Ernie or Steve since I’ve been out here, so it was fun. A little bit kind of nervous, but it was fun, I enjoyed it.”