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Weeks: Stricker's shorter schedule makes perfect sense

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Bob Weeks
1/4/2013 9:36:02 AM
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Anyone who knows Steve Stricker wasn't surprised one iota when he revealed his plans for the 2013 season.

The Cheesehead from Wisconsin announced on Thursday that he was heading into semi-retirement; he'll pay just 10 or 12 events this year, a mix of majors, World Golf Championships and close-to-home regular events.

For a player ranked 18th in the world, just about to turn 46, who has won tournaments in five of the last six seasons, cutting back on play is hard to understand. But for Stricker, it makes perfect sense. He'll devote some of his new free time to starting a foundation that will help teens.

Sticker, you see, is the ultimate family man. He likes golf. He loves his family. To be a great golf professional, you have to be self-centered. Long stretches on the road, long hours at the course. It's something that Stricker never really warmed to, despite just how good he became.

"I'm in a sport where it's a pretty selfish sport," he said from Hawaii, where he's defending his title at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. "You have to take care of yourself because you have to put in the time; you have to practice when you're home.

"It takes a lot of time. Even (when) I play 19 events or whatever, you're still putting in another week at home to prepare to go out on the road again. And that's kind of what I want to cut back on is those times at home where I can devote some of my other time to my daughters."

When Stricker played the Canadian Tour back in the early 1990s, his wife Nicki was his caddie. That wasn't unusual – and still isn't today - as young couples try to save money. But when he moved to the PGA Tour a few years later, and the cheques were a little larger, she remained as his caddie. They were closer than close, seemingly never apart.

When he went into a slump in the early 2000s, it wasn't hard to understand the reason: he had to leave his wife and new daughter at home and hated being away. It took him a long time to learn how to leave them, how to be on the road without them. When he did, his career soared, but he never loved it.

One of the best things about Steve Stricker is that he never lost his perspective. Not only about his family but also the people around him. Here's an example: Last year at Doral, I was standing on the range with our TSN crew, interviewing players about the upcoming Masters. I approached Stricker, whom I've known since his days playing in Canada. He politely declined as he was just heading over to the first tee to play a practice round. We stayed on the range that afternoon and later in the day Stricker, having finished his round, walked past again and smiled. After he'd gone about 10 paces he turned around, came back and said:

"Listen guys, I'm really sorry about not being able to stop. I love talking to you and I feel bad not being able to stop but I have to get to an appointment and I'm already late."

I said it was no problem, we shook hands, and he turned and jogged off towards the clubhouse, obviously in a hurry.

I can't imagine any other golf professional stopping to apologize for not granting an interview request from five hours earlier. But that's Stricker.

(I wonder if Golf Canada officials might want to remind him about the time he hitched a ride home from the British on the Open charter. Although he didn't play that year, he said he would in the future. He might have time in his schedule for that now.)

So while a lot of golf fans may find it strange that he's peeling back his schedule, anyone who understands what makes Stricker tick, can only admire his choice. And the man.

Steve Stricker (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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