Steve Stricker (pictured) is in decent shape to keep his title at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The defending champion is three shots behind overnight leader Dustin Johnson and will be playing in the final group with his Ryder Cup colleague.
Stricker is the only former winner in the field and only player to win a tournament on the Plantation Course in Hawaii that is the regular host of the first event of the new schedule. He began last season in perfect style by winning the limited field opening event on the schedule.
Our Player in Focus has decided to play a limited schedule this year. He may play just 10 events as he looks to spend more time with his family and work with the charitable foundation that he has helped to establish.
If Stricker does win in Hawaii or has the high finish that now looks certain he will be getting his career back on track after a disappointing Ryder Cup. He was selected as a wildcard pick by Davis Love partly due to his record in partnership with Tiger Woods.
Stricker and Woods paired up three times in the Ryder Cup and lost each match. Stricker’s reliable putting let him down at crucial stages, including in the pivotal singles match with Martin Kaymer which determined who won the Cup.
Stricker played himself into contention on Monday despite a nerve problem that caused him some pain in his upper thigh. His second round of 67 was due to some excellent putting which saw him take just 26 strokes on the greens. He was considering withdrawing before play began because of his injury.
The 45 year old American has the best course form of the entire field. He has contested the tournament in four of the last six years which reflects his consistency over a sustained period of time. He lost in a play-off to Daniel Chopra of Sweden in 2008.
Stricker is no more than average for driving distance and the Plantation Course does favour the longer hitters. However, Stricker’s excellent putting has helped him establish such a good record on the course and another win in Hawaii is not yet out of the question.