Golf is a beautiful sport to watch and a fascinating game to analyze. It also produces a certain class of jerk - privileged, entitled, independent contractors to play mostly for the money.
In this sport, the gracious and the good stand out.
Steve Stricker stands out. Always.
I wrote about Wisonsinite Jordan Niebrugge for the Wednesday paper. Because I followed him around Augusta National, I wound up following his playing partner, Stricker.
Stricker wanted to help a 20-year-old from Wisconsin, so he showed the kid the ropes - or, more accurately, the angles of a deceptive course.
Golf Channel's Jason Sobel tweeted that the average Masters winner has played in 6.1 Masters. So course knowledge matters. Especailly when you factor in that so many Masters winners had caddies who knew the course well.
Stricker spent the day with Niebrugger, and on the back nine, Russell Henley joined them.
After everyone hit shots to the tricky 17th green, Stricker and Henley walked back about 50 paces from the green and hit a bunch of wedge shots.
Were they betting? No. Stricker was showing Henley how to hit a wedge shot with the hand action of a bunker shot, holding the clubface open to make the ball skip to a stop. Henley's last shot using that technique skipped to within inches of the hole.
Stricker has given Tiger Woods putting lessons. In other words, in a sport where your finishing place determines your income, Stricker happily helps people finish ahead of him.
``He was just super helpful to Jordan and then even with Russell Henley,'' said Alan Bratton, the Oklahoma State coach who is caddying for Niebrugger this week. ``That’s a real credit to Russell, and it’s no wonder he’s doing so well on the tour if he’s smart enough to seek out a guy as smart as Steve Stricker. We really appreciate what Steve did today.''
Stricker is known as one of the nicest guys on tour. He has cut back his tour schedule so he can spend more time with his family. And he currently stars in the best golf commercial running - the Avis ad in which he discusses unleashing the beast within...while octagenarians speed past him on the highway.
You want to cheer for a good guy this week? Can't beat Stricker.
Phil Mickelson said that Rickie Fowler shot a 30 on the back nine on Tuesday in their practice round.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. and on 1500ESPN at about 12:15 all week. I'll co-host Sunday Sports Talk on 1500ESPN from 10-noon on Sunday from Augusta.