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PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Even though Steve Stricker traveled across Alligator Alley, his commute to this week’s Honda Classic was much smoother that last week’s last-minute trek to The Player Championship.
On Monday, the USA Ryder Cup captain and his wife and caddie, Nicki, took a pleasant drive across the Sunshine State to get from his home in Naples to PGA National, covering the 160 miles in about 2 hours, 30 minutes.
He arrived in plenty of time to take his COVID-19 test for the Honda Classic, relax, and get a good night’s sleep. Woke up the next day for a practice round and plenty of work on the range and putting green, then played nine holes in the pro-am on Wednesday.
“This is a better way to prepare,” he said.
Last week on the day of the first round, Stricker, 54, woke up 300 miles away from the PGA Tour’s flagship event when he got word at 6:45 a.m. that he got in as the last alternate. Stricker got moving quickly and flew up to northeast Florida, during which time he set up a caddie, and secured a car to take him from an airport 45 miles south of the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. As soon as he got on site, he took his COVID-19 test, waited for the results, practiced as much as he could and made his tee time.
And shot 2-under-par 70 to move into a tie for 12th after the first round. But he lost a little steam and shot 77 the next day and missed the cut.
“I didn’t mind last week, to tell you the truth,” he said. “I really wanted to play. Ultimately, it would have been nice to have played a practice round, or two. The chipping and putting kind of caught up to me at times.
“I think I ran out of gas a little bit. Mentally, I was a little fatigued. The whole week leading up to it. I kept moving up the alternate list, was wondering if I prepare or not, and I needed a little rest.
“Then the anticipation the night before, and then getting the call. And then you spend the whole day trying to get there and trying to play and I came out a little flat on Friday.”
Stricker had two good days of rest before heading to the Honda Classic. But now comes the tough part. Grueling might be a better word. After playing grinding Bay Hill for four days in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and spending two days walking the tightrope that is Pete Dye’s Stadium Course in The Players, he faces the Champions Course, one of the toughest tracks on the PGA Tour.
“I still find fun in all the pain,” Stricker said with a laugh. “I guess that’s golfers in general. You just keep putting yourself through it no matter what.
“I have three weeks off coming up, so I figure I can endure one more week.”
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