Stricker and his wife Nicki today – photo Abbie Parr Getty Images
The outcome might yet be 36 holes away, but 53-year-old Steve Stricker has opened up the possibility of becoming the oldest player to win a PGA Tour event.
Stricker is just one shot behind Xander Schaufelle at the Waste Management Phoenix Open at the halfway mark after rounds of 65 and 66 at the TPC Scottsdale outside of Phoenix and if he can find a way to win the event he will surpass Sam Snead as the oldest golfer to win on the PGA Tour.
Snead was 52 years and 10 months when he won the last of his eight Greater Greensboro Opens in 1965 but Stricker, who won the last of his 12 PGA Tour titles to date in 2012, has at least created an opportunity to create a milestone.
Surprisingly, Stricker has played this event on 18 previous occasions and recorded only one top ten in that time so the performance to date this week of the now PGA Tour Champions eligible golfer is a turnaround on previous efforts at the TPC Scottsdale.
“It would mean a lot,” said Stricker when asked what winning would mean. “I mean, I know it’s a long shot. I’ve got to play my very best, just like anybody else does out here. But you know, I’ve been there.
“I’ve won a few times out on this TOUR and I know what it takes, although it’s been a while. It would be fun to see how I handle it if I do get that opportunity.
“I’ve got to clean up a couple little shots that I messed up coming in, but I feel pretty good about my game and where it’s going. The putter has felt great. Hit a lot of putts on my line today, and it was really kind of a stressless round until the last couple holes.”
Stricker bogeyed his final hole which would ultimately cost him a share of the lead but he is clearly well placed heading into the weekend.
Schauffele has been in tremendous form of late with five top 5 finishes in his last 7 starts.
I’m just trying to kind of stay calm, I guess,” said the leader. “Like I said, I want to win really bad. I think everyone wants to win really bad. People talk to me about it now more than before.
“We kind of just realized where I was getting to I think in terms of me just becoming impatient. I feel like I had a sense of urgency when I really didn’t need to. I would look back at the week and I was like, Man, why did I kind of jump the gun there? All I had to do was play decent and I would’ve been right there.
“I think it’s just a result of pushing and pushing and pushing and having decent results, but not what we really want. I’ve played well in a calm sort of state of mind, and that’s when I’ve done my best.
“So it’s okay to be aware of these things. It’s okay to be scared of bad shots and the unknown, but I think just sort of an overall calmness. I feel like whenever I’m in a content place off the course and Austin (caddie) and are jamming well on the course together, it’s sort of an easy place for me to play well.”
Stricker shares second with Keegan Bradley just one behind Schauffele, the leader playing his final seven holes in six under for a round 64 to snatch the lead late in the day.
Matt Jones was one of only two Australians in the field and has kept himself within touch of the lead with rounds of 68 and 69 to be seven shots from the leader.
Jason Day missed the cut by two shots.