With all of the attention on Henrik Stenson, Jordan Spieth and Tiger Wood’s mysterious fall from super human to human, let’s make sure we don’t forget the extraordinary year that Steve Stricker had. Or I guess I should say, half-year. After the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, in Maui, Hawaii, he disappeared for six weeks. We didn’t see him again until the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. And he was rested and mellow. This from his first media session back after having announced his truncated year:
It’s been good. I’ve enjoyed the time at home. I actually needed the time at home. I wasn’t in very good shape at Hyundai there with some pain going down my legs, so I actually needed the time away to get better and healthy. I feel good now, and it’s been a good six weeks at home. I’ve enjoyed it. And really for me, this is par for the course.
I don’t mind coming off of long breaks and getting my game in shape. I still spend time, I hit balls at home the last week or two, at home. And then came out here to Phoenix a few days early. So I was up in Phoenix practicing and playing and then came down here [to Tucson] Sunday.
I’ve got a lot of golf under my belt in a short period of time, and my game feels good. I’m excited to be here, and that’s worth something, too. Your excitement level goes up when you don’t play a lot. I’m looking forward to playing, and hopefully play well the next few days.
In the end, he ended up playing more tournaments than he originally guessed he would. He was thinking around 11 in order to stop the relentlessness of the road and to spend more time with his family. He ended up playing 13.
Yeah, I think this year I’m going to play about 11 events. You know, the majors minus the British, I probably won’t go over to the British Open. Throw in the John Deere, Houston Open probably, Players Championship.
Right now the plan is not to play any of the FedExCup at all and just shut it down right after the PGA. Probably won’t play any of the fall events, either, so I’ll be at home a lot, maybe play a couple times in December to get ready for the early part of next year.
As the year passed along and he realized that he was still quite competitive, the lure of the FedExCup Playoffs proved irresistible. And adding them proved extremely lucrative. Here are the tournaments he added after the PGA Championship, his finish and his prize money:
- Deutsche Bank Championship, Boston, (2), $864,000
- BMW Championship, Chicago, (T4), $315,000
- Tour Championship, Atlanta, (T2), $708,000
- FedExCup Bonus Money, (3), $2,000,000
So playing in those three tournaments was worth a tidy $3,887,000. True, some of that FedExCup Bonus Money was attributable to his fine play throughout the year and the points that he accumulated because of that. But The Playoff points were all dramatically increased rewarding the best players. The four Playoff tournaments had purses of $8 million each for a total of $32 million and the Bonus Money of $35 million brought the grand total to $67 million. Strong incentives to keep on playing. And Stricker didn’t even play The Barclays, the first playoff event.
As for his year before The Playoffs began, he played in just 10 events (he probably had the BMW Championship in his count of 11 because it was in Chicago and close to his fan base in Wisconsin).
In those 10 events:
- He made every cut
- He had two 2nd place finishes (Hyundai and Doral)
- He had three other top-10 finishes
- He earned $2.554 million
That just by itself would have been a great year for almost any player. They would have been resting on their laurels and basking in the adulation. But for Stricker, he obviously works hard when he’s at home — he couldn’t have done this otherwise — and he’s much too humble to be seeking adulation.
Which is why everybody loves Steve Stricker and what he accomplished and the way he did it surely attracted the attention of his peers.
He’s created a whole new paradigm that says you can have your cake and eat it too, you just don’t have to be out there playing 26 events a year. Much better to nurture your inner well being than flogging a horse that never quite catches its breath. And fighting the inevitable swing breakdowns such a schedule brings with it.
So one last tip of the hat to Steve Stricker for a great year. You’ve opened up a whole new window to what’s possible in big-time professional golf. There probably wasn’t one person as his announcement spread across the world of golf that thought that this was going to work out well for him. It just wasn’t how things were done.
Well it is now.