With money in the bank and daughters growing up too fast, Steve Stricker has elected to play a limited golf schedule the past four years.
But don’t think Stricker worries about hearing spoiler alerts for “Game of Thrones” or is one to binge-watch his way through Netflix.
Reduced schedule? Yes. Down time? Hardly.
In the past 14 months Stricker has turned 50 and hosted two PGA Tour Champions events in Wisconsin. He’s also served as a vice captain for the victorious U.S. Ryder Cup team at Hazeltine and made dozens of appearances as captain of the U.S. Presidents Cup team that kicks off play in less than two months against Nick Price and the Internationals.
Oh, yeah. Stricker has played a little golf, too. More than usual.
He’s made 11 starts on the PGA Tour and five starts on the Champions Tour. He made the cut in the Masters, the U.S. Open and the British Open. That runs his streak of cuts made in the majors to 25 tournaments, the longest in the game.
“I’ve been busy, but it’s a good busy,” Stricker said Wednesday at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine before a pro-am at the 3M Championship. “I feel like I can compartmentalize fairly well. That’s the kind of guy I am … active and busy.”
It’s hard to imagine a more hectic stretch of golf and commitments than the wave Stricker is on now. And yet, through it all, the 12-time PGA Tour winner is playing some of the best golf of his career.
Stricker comes to the 3M — a mere four hours and change away from home in Madison — having finished no worse than 10 under par in Champions Tour events. His lowest finish is a tie for 13th in the Regions Tradition, where he closed with a 6-under 66.
“No matter what tour he plays, he’s going to be up there and challenge for the win,” said Skip Kendall, a fellow Wisconsinite on the senior tour. “There’s not a bad bone in his body, but on the course he has a competitive fire that he doesn’t let out anywhere else.”
Consider: Stricker asked for a special exemption into this year’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills — played 63 miles from his hometown of Edgerton, Wis. After the request was denied, Stricker won the USGA sectional qualifier in Memphis, then finished in a tie for 16th in front of thousands of Wisconsin faithful.
“It was a gas, so much fun to be a part of that,” Stricker said of the first U.S. Open played in his home state. “The amount of support I got, I’ve never seen that before.”
Stricker has plenty of friends and family in the Twin Cities. His kids will be in the gallery this week and his wife, Nicki, will be his caddie, as she often is.
Together the two of them have logged countless miles on golf courses around the Midwest just like TPC Twin Cities — with its wide, bent grass layouts and plush receptive greens that beg for players to post low scores.
“He’s just what this tour needs,” four-time Champions Tour major winner Kenny Perry said. “He still has one of the best short games out there, and it’s putting that puts you in the winner’s circle.”
But a home-course advantage at a golf event in Minnesota? Stricker said playing here “feels like home,” but that’s reserved for Tom Lehman.
“Tom’s the man,” Stricker said. “It will be fun, though. You usually get some nice support here.”
Stricker’s year is far from over. He’ll play the PGA Championship next week at Quail Hollow in North Carolina, and now that the Presidents Cup is “very much at the top of my mind,” the event will be just as much about scouting potential captain’s picks as extending his cuts-made streak.
He’s made enough money to currently qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs on the PGA Tour and Schwab Cup playoffs on the Champions Tour — though it’s a stretch to do both.
Winter will pass, a new limited schedule will come into focus, and next year, with fewer outside obligations, Stricker will again set out to be among the best players over 50.