Steve Stricker (pictured) was the first player to qualify for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions when he won the 2012 renewal a year ago. This could be a pivotal season for Stricker as he has decided to play a very limited schedule. He may be reducing his commitments to ready himself for the Senior’s Tour which he is eligible to play in five years.
Another factor could be a preference to spending more time at home with his family and work on a charitable foundation in which he is involved. The Tournament of Champions could be one of just 10 events that Stricker contests over the next year.
Stricker will probably be focusing on the biggest events of the season. He is eligible to play in the four major championships and the three World Golf Championship events to be staged in the United States.
The US player won a tournament last year and is currently number 18 in the world rankings. He also received a wildcard pick for the Ryder Cup so it is not lack of form that has prompted this decision. However, he had a poor Ryder Cup and his usually rock-solid putting let him down at key stages in his matches.
Stricker was chosen by Davis Love for the Ryder Cup for his record partnering Tiger Woods in previous matches and the Presidents Cup. The pair played three matches against the Europeans last September and lost all three. Stricker also lost the crucial singles against Martin Kaymer which ultimately determined which side won the Ryder Cup.
Stricker will be allowed to cherry pick his appearances this year as he has full status due to money won exemptions. This move could be looked upon in two ways as he will be either fresh or rested when he does play or he could lose his competitive edge.
Our Player in Focus has qualified for four of the last five renewals of the Tournament of Champions. He is the defending champion and only former winner in the field. He also lost in a play-off to Daniel Chopra from Sweden in 2008.
Stricker is below average in length which in theory putts him at a disadvantage on the course with wide fairways that encourage using driver from the tee. That perceived weakness is offset by his putting which bar the Ryder Cup has been reliable and consistent for the last five years.