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Pro golf: Wisconsin native playing better despite playing less

Stricker keeping busy in semi-retirement

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Steve Stricker is in semi-retirement from the PGA Tour, though it sure doesn’t feel that way to him.

Consider the 48 hours since his runner-up finish at Doral.

Stricker had to film an Avis commercial in Los Angeles the next day. When he booked his travel plans, he wasn’t aware the final round would end an hour later because of Daylight Savings Time, so he missed his flight.

Phil Mickelson offered him a ride on his plane to San Diego, and Stricker accepted. He finally got home to Wisconsin at 2 a.m. Tuesday, and then woke to take his daughters to school before heading to a meeting with his foundation until the girls got out of school.

He chuckled when talking about a text from caddie Jimmy Johnson that read, “What are you up to?”

“I feel like I’m busier now than when I played a regular schedule,” Stricker said. “But it’s all good. I’m doing a lot of things around home with the family, and with what [wife] Nicki and I are doing with the foundation. I’ll go to the grocery store with Nicki. And there’s still time to do some fun things.”

Deer hunting is done, but Stricker was quick to point out that coyote season is still open. He’s thinking about driving down to Chicago one day this week to watch the Big 10 men’s basketball tournament.

As for his golf? Not bad for a part-time player.

In three starts this year, he has made $1.82 million and is No. 4 on the money list. He has gone up 10 spots to No. 8 in the world ranking. Stricker was the runner-up at Kapalua and Doral, and he reached the quarterfinals of the Match Play Championship.

He already was considered as nice a person as there is on the PGA Tour, mainly for his good manners and how he treats people. His father-in-law, Dennis Tiziani, summed it up a few years ago when he said Stricker was “as considerate talking to a big executive on tour as he was to the guy working in Aisle 4 at the Home Depot.”

He probably should have done this a few years ago. He felt he owed it to his sponsors to play a full schedule, and he was thrilled when he realized they were on board with him cutting back this year. Even then, he was concerned that he would be criticized by golf fans for not playing as much.

The original plan was to defend his title at Kapalua and walk away. Over the holidays, he struck a compromise of 10 or 11 events.

“What I told Nicki was if I could just make enough money to pay our yearly expenses as a family, I’m fine with that,” Stricker said at Kapalua. “If we don’t have to touch anything I’ve put away, I don’t need to do what I’m doing just to make money. I’d rather be staying home, doing things at home.

“I wanted to not have it be about me anymore.”

That’s what he’s doing, and he’s making it work beyond his own expectations. He is playing good golf. He has plenty of time for his family.

He’s in a good spot because he’s doing more and playing less ... and he looks as good as ever.

“I’m really excited what I’m doing this year,” Stricker said. “I can tell by my demeanor on the golf course.”

And along the way, his profile is as high as it has ever been.

Stricker file

Born: Feb. 23, 1967

Hometown: Edgerton, Wis.

College: Illinois

Turned pro: 1990

Career earnings: $36,899,561

Career wins: 20 (12 on PGA Tour, including 3 straight John Deere Classics 2009-11 and Accenture Match Play in 2001)

Top finishes in majors: 2nd in 1998 PGA Championship; 5th in 1998 & ‘99 U.S. Opens; 6th in 2009 Masters; 7th in 2008 British Open

FYI: Won PGA Tour Comeback Player of the Year award in 2006 & 2007. … Won Payne Stewart Award, given to PGA Tour player for respect of game and charitable support, in 2012. … On 4 Presidents Cup teams (1996, 2007, 2009, 2011) and 3 winning Ryder Cup teams (2008, 2010, 2012); U.S. won all 4 Presidents Cups and 2008 Ryder Cup.

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