Stricker limps into second place
KAPALUA, HAWAII Steve Stricker announced at the start of The Tournament of Champions tournament that he would be going into semi-retirement this season.
The way he played Monday during the delayed start of the tournament, it appears he might have made a hasty decision.
The way the Edgerton native walked, however, indicates it might not be soon enough.
Stricker played two rounds of the wind-delayed tournament in 8-under par, which was good enough for second place, three shots behind tournament lead Dustin Johnson.
Stricker started the long day wondering if he could even finish. About a month ago, he began feeling a shooting pain down his left side when he shifted his weight in that direction, and he was limping badly coming down the hill on the 18th in the middle of his second round. But from 67 yards away, his pitch rode the slope and wind to perfection and dropped for eagle, and his spirits lifted.
Stricker added a pair of birdies on the front nine and had a 67 to reach 138.
"Nobody knows if it's a muscle with pressure on the sciatic nerve or if there's a problem with a disk," Stricker said. "My back feels great. I don't feel tight. I don't feel stiff. Just every time I get over to my left side, I'm getting a shooting pain down my leg. I'm not hitting it full strength and I'm just trying to keep it in front of me and play the smart shots."
It's tough enough for Stricker to match Johnson's length on a course like this. Tougher still is doing it when he can barely walk, especially downhill. Stricker isn't sure what's wrong with his lower back, or what's causing the pain. He took a small consolation from the fact it didn't get worse.
"It felt as crappy on the first hole as the last hole," he said.
Stricker said at the start of the tournament that he was going into semi-retirement this year, playing only about 10 events. He won't return to the PGA Tour after this week until the end of February at the Match Play Championship. And he's not going to roll over for Johnson, regarded as the best American player under 30.
"You've just got to go out and play and play your hardest and see what happens," Stricker said. "I've been in that position where he's at now. It's a tough spot. It's tough to win in front. We've got really nothing to lose tomorrow and it makes it a little bit easier for us, but tougher on him."