Stricker enters Tournament of Champions with healthy outlook

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Associated Press
Friday, January 6, 2012
— Steve Stricker went the final five months of the year without a top 10, mainly because of an injury to his neck that caused weakness in his left arm. He decided to treat it with therapy instead of surgery, and so far is pleased with the decision.

Stricker, the highest-ranked American at No. 6 in the world, showed up on Maui feeling good—“real good,” he emphasized.

His physical therapy at home consisted of six massage treatments in a two-week period, and he had his second cortisone shot right before Christmas. Stricker felt as though he were losing power off the tee toward the end of the FedEx Cup playoffs, and that concern remained at the Presidents Cup. But after his treatment, that’s no longer the case.

“Actually, I feel like I’m hitting a little bit further,” he said Thursday. “You look at the way I felt a year ago compared to now, I’m in much better shape.”

Stricker is playing the opening two weeks in Hawaii, then will take a four-week break before returning at Riviera. He said it would be during that month off that he could start working on weights to strengthen his arm.

“I’ll probably switch off for a couple weeks and then get back at it for a couple weeks leading up to L.A.,” Stricker said. “You need to get away from it. Just because it’s so mentally grinding throughout the course of the year.

“Just like everybody’s job, even if they take a short vacation or something, it’s hard to get away from work,” he said. “And I think golf is a good example of that, too. We’re always thinking about ways of getting better and trying to improve, so there is no real time except when you can build in a four- or five-week period where you can totally get away from it and switch it off.”

Stricker has received two cortisone shots to help temper the irritation in his arm.

“I got another cortisone shot right before Christmas, and I think that, too, has helped a lot,” Stricker said. “So it feels pretty good.”

He turns 45 next month and wonders how fast his window is closing.

“I think having knowledge and experience, the older you get, is always worth a few shots here and there during the tournament,” he said. “But I think the kids are coming out more prepared all the time. They look at some of these younger kids, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, you know, these young guys that have had some success early on, and they know where they fit in the whole scheme of things as a player.”

Then again, Stricker looks at his multiple wins in each of the last three years, and doesn’t see any reason why that cannot continue. And while Stricker didn’t have another top 10 since winning the John Deere Classic, it’s not like he was awful.

He was in the top 15 at four of those seven tournaments, and he didn’t miss a cut.

Stricker hopes to follow the success several other players have had playing into their late 40s.

“Seeing all those guys, Vijay (Singh) and then Kenny Perry did it, Jay Haas played well leading into the Senior Tour,” Stricker said. “I don’t know, he was 48, 49, 50 years old. Loren Roberts played well. There was guys that I looked at, I’m like, ‘God, they’re playing great still into their late 40s.’ So there’s no question you look up to those guys and see what they’re trying to do and believe that it can be done.”

Last updated: 7:36 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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