HONOLULU — Steve Stricker came to Hawaii for two weeks of work, just like the old days, but with a twist. Instead of starting at the winners-only field at Kapalua and then going over to the Sony Open, he started at the Sony Open and heads to the winners-only field on the Big Island for the PGA Tour Champions opener.
The question is how long he stays with players his own age.
It's a question Vijay Singh and Davis Love III have contemplated over the last few years.
Stricker, who is about to turn 52, played 13 times on the PGA Tour and six times on the Champions in his first year of eligibility. Last year, he was up to seven Champions event and one fewer on the PGA Tour.
Now he appears to be leaning toward the PGA Tour, with Pebble Beach and Riviera on his schedule, and possibly Phoenix.
"I talked to Tom Kite at the Ryder Cup about my position a little bit. He gave me the idea like I should be on the Champions tour. Take advantage of this opportunity, you have a short window, all this kind of stuff," Stricker said. "Then you talk to somebody else and they say: 'The number of years is winding down for you on the regular tour. Stay out there as long as you can.'
"I don't know which way to go," he said. "Everybody has their opinion. I think bottom line is I'm just doing what I feel like doing. ... My intention right now is to be out here and try to play as well as I can and try to win again. I still feel like it can happen."
Both sides make sense, though times were different when Kite turned 50 in 2000. The arrival of Tiger Woods and his impact on TV contracts and prize money was just starting to kick in. Stricker already had more than $40 million in career earnings when he turned 50, and that includes five lean years in his prime. Ditto for Love, minus the lean years. Singh was over the $65 million mark.
It's also hard to ignore that Stricker made $1,196,235 in seven Champions events last year, and $582,566 in 12 starts on the PGA Tour.
"I'm not looking at the money part of it," Stricker said. "If that was the case, I would be playing more on the Champions tour. I feel it's a challenge, and I'm still feeling good enough and excited enough to take on that challenge."
Love won the Wyndham Championship in 2015 at age 51, so he has proof it can be done. He also tied for seventh in the Sony Open.
"I've talked to Vijay about it," Love said. "You've got to pick one or the other."
Love has been eligible for the PGA Tour Champions since April 2014. Last year, he played more than ever on the Champions — a whopping four times.
Still to be determined is how Singh looks at the season. He turned 50 in early 2013, and it took six years before he played more on the Champions (20) than on the PGA Tour (10). Singh played 12 times on the Champions in 2017, compared with 18 on the regular circuit. Before that, he didn't play more than six times a year on the Champions.
Of the five Champions-eligible players at the Sony Open, Love was the only player who did not go over to Hualalai on the Big Island. Instead, he's going to the Singapore Open, where four spots for the British Open are available.
The story hasn't changed for several years now as PGA Tour players try to build a schedule and find too many tournaments they don't want to miss.
Adam Scott is taking a simple approach, even if that means missing $10 million events with no cut.
"I don't know how everyone can define a big tournament different," Scott said. "But at the moment, I have not scheduled a World Golf Championship because they don't fall in the right place for me."
Ten years ago, that would have been surprising to hear someone skip out on a World Golf Championship. Now, not so much.
The first one of the year is in Mexico City and falls right after a popular West Coast stretch that includes Phoenix, Pebble Beach and Riviera, and right before a packed part of the schedule in Florida as the Masters gets closer.
Match Play in Austin, Texas, falls after four straight Florida events — Honda Classic, Bay Hill, The Players Championship and Valspar Championship outside Tampa, Florida — and two weeks before the Masters. Some players have skipped Match Play in recent years because of the format, which no longer is single elimination. Tiger Woods likely will have to choose between Tampa and Match Play as it relates to his pre-Masters play.
The difference in FedEx Cup points is minimal — 550 to the winner of a WGC event, 500 for a regular event (and 600 for majors). Money? The WGC purse is $10.25 million this year. The Memorial and the Arnold Palmer Invitational purses are at $9.1 million.
These days, what's $1 million, anyway?
"I feel like there are good tournaments right around them that are a preferred option," Scott said about missing the WGCs.
The other one is in Memphis, Tennessee, the week after the British Open in Northern Ireland.
Rory McIlroy, never shy about sharing his unvarnished opinions, now gets a new audience. He was among 16 players selected for the Player Advisory Council for 2019. That's the group that consults with the four players on the PGA Tour policy board on tour issues.
Half of the PAC was chosen by the four players on the board, and the other eight were selected by a vote.
Also on the PAC for this year are Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Matt Kuchar, Ryan Armour, Paul Casey, Roberto Castro, James Hahn, Zach Johnson, Kevin Kisner, Anirban Lahiri, Peter Malnati, Sam Saunders, Josh Teater, Michael Thompson and Harold Varner III.
Next up is selecting the co-chairmen. Whichever two PAC members get the most votes will move up to the policy board in 2020. On the ballot are Thomas, Casey, Hahn and Kisner. That means Casey is the latest offering to make his own brand of PGA Tour history.
A foreign-born player has never served on the PGA Tour policy board.
REAVIE ON THE RISE
Since the Masters began using the world ranking as part of its criteria in 1999, no American has ever qualified two years in a row by getting into the top 50 just before the Masters. Chez Reavie might be the first.
Reavie ended 2017 at No. 95 in the world, and then had successive runner-up finishes in Phoenix and Pebble Beach to crack the top 50, and he narrowly hung on (No. 48) to receive an invitation two weeks before the Masters.
He ended last year at No. 63 and already is making progress. Reavie tied for third in the Sony Open and is up to No. 54, with the rest of the West Coast Swing and all of Florida still to go.
Three internationals players have moved into the top 50 just weeks before the Masters in back-to-back years — Alvaro Quiros and Louis Oosthuizen in 2009 and 2010, and Craig Parry in 2004 and 2005.
The LPGA Tour opens its season in Florida for the first time since 2015 with the Diamond Resorts Invitational, a field limited to winners in 2017 and 2018. ... Justin Leonard and Stuart Appleby have been selected as captains for the Junior Presidents Cup, to be held Dec. 8-9 at Royal Melbourne in Australia, the Sunday and Monday ahead of the Presidents Cup. ... A new Web.com Tour event in Florida has a sponsor. The Lecom Suncoast Classic will be Feb. 14-17 at Lakewood National. ... Charles Howell III is among five players who are in each of the first three PGA Tour events this year. The others are Patton Kizzire, Andrew Landry, Scott Piercy and Andrew Putnam.
STAT OF THE WEEK
The Desert Classic has the No. 1 player in the field for the first time since the world ranking began in 1986.
"The thing for us is not to get caught up in today's news. I learned that lesson already because I know what's wrong with Jordan Spieth, and I know what's right with Jordan Spieth. I know how to get to where I want to go with my golf game and have fun doing it." — Jordan Spieth.