By Aaron M Smith
Over the last two days, reporters have been lining up to announce that Tiger Woods is hitting golf balls. Tiger Woods is running and getting into “golf shape”. In some ways it is a modern day version of Paul Revere’s midnight ride letting fellow New Englanders know that the British were coming. This time it is fellow PGA golfers taking notice. Tiger Woods is coming! Tiger Woods is coming! With the Masters just a little more then a month away, the question is alive. Will Tiger Woods play at Augusta in 2010? I believe he won’t and here is why – while Tiger certainly loves the spotlight, he won’t want the Masters (a tournament he absolutely loves) to be his first tournament back. It will be his first taste of reporters asking questions about that fateful night in November and you can bet they will be relentless. So Tiger will want to get a tournament or two under his belt before playing in a major – which leads me to believe that he won’t be in the Masters. The U.S. Open? Yes. Masters? No.
Which takes me to the topic – Steve Stricker. As Tiger continues to be away from the game, his stranglehold on the number 1 spot in the rankings grows weak. Enter Steve Stricker, the #2 golfer currently in the world. Sticker, already known for his smooth swing, started his march to the top in 2009 and with one win already in 2010 – he has picked up right where he left off.
Stricker joined the PGA tour in 1990 and has accumulated a total of 8 PGA wins during his career. What makes this number remarkable is the slump he suffered in the early 2000’s ultimately losing his PGA card in 2004. Using tournament exemptions, Stricker battled his way back on to the tour winning 6 times (one non-PGA event) since 2007. 4 of those wins happened in 2009 and Stricker has already won once in 2010 ( Northern Trust Open). Stricker’s one knock? Winning a major tournament. While Stricker has six Top 20 finishes in major tournaments, he has not captured the big one.
So what has changed? According to those who know Stricker the best – confidence. Known for his swing and smooth putting, Stricker didn’t know how to close tournaments out. Many golfers will tell you that you drive for show and you putt for dough. Great rounds Thursday through Saturday get you a late tee time on Sunday. But Sunday is a whole different story. This is where Stricker has struggled in the past and for awhile – appeared to be his achilles heel. But with experience comes wisdom and Stricker has appeared to have figured it out. 4 wins in 2009 and one win in 2010 show signs of a golfer who has put it all together. Maybe that means a major or two in 2010? For now, it certainly looks like a golfer ready to take the No. 1 spot away from Tiger Woods.