The PLAYERS: Steve Stricker Q&A on TPC Sawgrass, Ryder Cup, more

Twelve-time PGA Tour winner Steve Stricker will make his 23rd start at The PLAYERS Championship this week. He last played at TPC Sawgrass in 2021, when he missed the cut thanks to a poor second round in which he shot a 5-over 77.

But Stricker hopes to improve upon that performance this week.

He is in the field at TPC Sawgrass thanks to his win at the Kaulig Companies Championship—formerly known as the Senior Players Championship—on the PGA Tour Champions a season ago.

The Wisconsin native went on to win one more time in 2023 and is off to a solid start so far in 2024.

As such, we caught up with Stricker and talked about TPC Sawgrass, his success on the PGA Tour Champions, the Ryder Cup, and more.

(Please note this conversation has been slightly edited and modified for clarity and readability)

Steve Stricker and The PLAYERS Championship

Playing Through: Where does The PLAYERS Championship rank on your list of favorite tournaments?

Steve Stricker: You know, it’s right up there. It’s one of those tournaments that you want to be at come March.

You want your game ready—sometimes to the point of over-preparing and getting too much in your own way. And it’s one of those tournaments you really want to play well at and be at.

It’s just an iconic golf course, too. You know, 16, 17, and 18, really, but obviously, the 17th pulls everybody in. Everyone likes to watch it, even me; I’ll sit there and watch. It’s like a train wreck waiting to happen, right?

You just glued in watching. So it’s it’s a lot of fun and I’m excited to be finally going back there.

Steve Stricker, PGA Tour, THE PLAYERS Championship

Steve Stricker hits his tee shot on the 17th hole during the third round of the 2018 PLAYERS Championship.
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

PT: I was looking at your results there, and your best finish came back in 1999, when you tied for sixth. You have had some struggles there, nine missed cuts, and only five top-20 finishes in 22 starts. Is there a characteristic about TPC Sawgrass that seems to stump you?

Stricker: I haven’t had the best of records going around there. I just never really had a chance to win, and I don’t know why that is. I don’t know if it’s the amount of trouble that’s around the golf course, or if it’s the disasters waiting to happen, but you have to be okay with that.

I go back to the courses I grew up playing as a kid in Wisconsin. I never played around a lot of water or a lot of hazards. So, I go to TPC Sawgrass, and it’s like, whoa, you have to steer away from it, and then sometimes steering away from it leads into more trouble.

Over the years, I have gotten more comfortable with parts of that golf course, but it’s still a challenge.

PT: As former Ryder Cup captain, what did you make of Rome last Fall?

Steve Stricker: It was disappointing. I was over there, watching it all unfold, and, yeah, it was disappointing. I have a couple of ideas on what happens here versus overseas for us. I think, particularly with this Ryder Cup, the amount of time these guys had off between their last tournament and the actual Ryder Cup played a huge role. Our guys just weren’t that sharp.

It showed once the competition started, but in the team room, the bunch of guys on these teams get along so well and have such a good time with each other that it’s a shame they’re not getting the job done overseas.

Steve Stricker, Brooks Koepka, PGA Tour, 2023 Ryder Cup

Steve Stricker shakes hands with Brooks Koepka at the 2023 Ryder Cup.
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Stricker’s Massive Success on PGA Tour Champions

PT: You had a great year last year, with six wins and 15 top-10 finishes. What was the reason behind your success on the PGA Tour Champions?

Stricker: I think it was because I decided to play full-time out there. I played 16 times, which was pretty much a full schedule. I was going to play a couple more at the end, but my dad was struggling a little bit.

But yeah, I think just playing a full schedule. That was my first year where I played that many events on the PGA Tour Champions, and I committed to it.

I didn’t play anything on the PGA Tour, and I tried to challenge myself to see how many times I could really get in contention and try to win.

PT: How different is the vibe on the PGA Tour Champions compared to the PGA Tour?

Stricker: It’s a lot. I can go to an event on Wednesday, and hit a few balls on Wednesday.

You play the Pro-Am on Thursday, and then bang, you’re right into the tournament. It’s a lot more casual. Guys are still grinding, don’t get me wrong. And I do too.

We’re still very competitive and want to play well. There are guys who are still grinding it out and competing hard to try to win. So that’s the cool part, too, that it still means a lot to everybody out there, and they’re still trying to do their best.

Steve Stricker, PGA Tour Champions, Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai

Steve Stricker hits a shot during the 2024 Mitsubishi Electric Championship.
Photo by Chris Condon/PGA Tour via Getty Images

PT: I have long admired your putting. If you had any tips for any amateur golfers who have been struggling with putting, or, heck, maybe it’s even Scottie Scheffler Shuffler—he’s obviously struggled with his putting the last year or so. What advice would you provide to somebody who’s struggling on the greens?

Stricker: That’s a good one because it has gone so many different ways nowadays.

Nowadays, you almost have to start with your equipment first. There are so many different opportunities. Maybe face balance is better for you, or maybe more rotation is better for you.

You need to putz around with that.

There are grips that can help you nowadays, you know, like the oversized grips. Those seem to be pretty popular. I’ve struggled with those, but a lot of guys like them. But there are so many different avenues to try to get a different feel in your hands to start with.

If that doesn’t work, then obviously, you have to look at your mechanics, and you should always look at that, too.

But over the years, I think the reason I’ve been consistent is that I really haven’t changed my approach to putting for shoot, 40 years.

PT: Wow.

Stricker: Well, I can look back at when I first got on the PGA Tour in the early 1990s and even late 1980s when I played college golf… my principles are the same. I really haven’t changed.

I feel like the simplistic approach that I’ve taken has done me well, and I continue to do the same things year in and year out, as I did 40 years ago.

Steve Stricker, PGA Tour, Cologuard Classic

Steve Stricker lines up a putt during the 2024 Cologuard Classic.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

PT: What do you think of guys like Will Zalatoris and Lucas Glover, who frankly had the yips but then discovered a little something with the longer putter?

Stricker: I think that’s obviously great for them.

I’m not a big fan of them being able to get a putter that’s the longest club in your bag. I think there should be a size limit to your putter almost. But that would hurt a few players, and that’s not what I’m saying.

I think it’s great for them that they were able to find their putting game again and play well. Both of them are great guys, Will and Lucas, great people. I’m so happy for them that they were able to do that.

It’s made a big difference for sure.

PT: Galleri Classic coming up at Mission Hills towards the end of the month. You played well there last year, tying for fifth. How excited are you to get back there? Do you think you can win this time around?

Stricker: I hope so! But as I have said to other people before, I am a big fan of the LPGA. I watch a lot of LPGA Events, and they have had a storied history there at Mission Hills with the women. For us to be there, I would love to dip into Poppy’s Pond, just like the women did for all those years in their first major of the season.

LPGA, ANA Inspiration

Patty Tavatanakit celebrates by jumping into “Poppy’s Pond” after winning the 2021 ANA Inspiration.
Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

I don’t know if David Toms took a jump in there or not, but I have girls, so I think they’d be pushing me in or trying to get me to jump in if I win.

Stricker on importance of the Galleri Test, Galleri Classic

PT: Speaking of the Galleri Classic, which is named after GRAIL’s multi-cancer early detection test, is there somebody in your family or someone close to you who has been affected by this terrible disease? Perhaps they inspired you to get involved with GRAIL and help grow awareness about this test.

Stricker: We just started this relationship, and I’m excited about what they’re trying to do with these cancer screenings. Especially now that I am of a certain population and age where people should be more on alert for cancer and getting tested for it.

I lost my college roommate, Kevin Fairfield, 20 years ago already. He was in his younger thirties, and he had a rare form of cancer in his stomach. Ever since then, now that I am in my fifties, I have always been thinking about that. Fortunately, we haven’t had—knock on wood— any other family members affected by cancer, but definitely friends and friends of friends.

You hear the stories, and I just think it’s a great opportunity for us to get the word out, about this blood test.

It’s a simple blood test, right?

You can do it with your doctor, get a prescription for it, and for people 50 and older, and, as I said, for that demographic, it’s a great opportunity.

I’m going to take it on Tuesday of the tournament. I’m excited about that, and I feel like being proactive with my health is important. So, if I can learn anything earlier rather than later, I’m going to try to do that, of course.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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