Steve Stricker's comeback turns banner year at Constellation FURYK & FRIENDS

Steve Stricker’s comeback turns banner year at Constellation FURYK & FRIENDS

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Steve Stricker owns one of golf’s most remarkable feats, having won the PGA TOUR’s Comeback Player of the Year award in both 2006 and 2007.

Fifteen years later, he’s authoring a new comeback tale on PGA TOUR Champions.

After a six-month competitive leave due to a self-described “mystery oil” that saw him lose 25 pounds and significant strength, Stricker returned to action in May and has seemingly lived near the top of the leaderboard all season, with his wife Nicki on the bag for the majority.

Nicki returned to the bag for this week’s Constellation FURYK & FRIENDS, and Stricker authored yet another signature performance in a season full of them. The Wisconsin native carded a three-round total of 14 under at firm, fast Timuquana CC for a two-stroke victory over Monday to qualify Harrison Frazar. Stricker finished three clear of tournament host Jim Furyk, who played alongside Stricker in Sunday’s final grouping in Northeast Florida.

In just 12 PGA TOUR Champions starts this season, Stricker has ascended to No. 3 on the Charles Schwab Cup standings. He has won in back-to-back starts (Sanford International in South Dakota), and he has raised three trophies in his last four starts, with four wins overall this season.

This past winter, Stricker wasn’t sure of a timeline for his return to action. He was hopeful for THE PLAYERS Championship in March – into which he qualified via his 2021 Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS Championship title – but his strength wasn’t quite there. He returned to action at the Insperity Invitational in late April, finished T2 and was off and running.

In 47 starts on PGA TOUR Champions, Stricker has finished top-three 26 times, with 11 wins.

After his back-to-back Comeback Player awards in 2006 and 2007, Stricker hit his peak on TOUR in his early 40s, finishing top-20 on the FedExCup in seven consecutive seasons. Then he led the United States Ryder Cup team to a resounding 19-9 victory at Whistling Straits last fall in his native Wisconsin, before the sudden, severe illness that required two separate hospital stays. His white blood cell count spiked, his liver count dropped and inflammation around the heart caused it to pump out of rhythm.

Stricker is forever known for his double comeback – he finished No. 162 on the TOUR standings in 2005, then No. 34 in 2006 and No. 2 on the inaugural FedExCup in 2007.

But this latest chapter in his journey is pretty impressive too.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Stricker of his latest comeback. “I didn’t know where I was going to be; I didn’t know where my game was going to be. When I was starting to come back and hitting it super short and my body felt awful, I was just hoping to play, really, more than anything.

“Nicki’s thing was, ‘Let’s take it in two-week increments,’ and that proved to be the savior because we could see improvement every couple weeks, whether I felt better, starting to put on weight, starting to put on muscle, all that kind of stuff. Slowly it started to come back a little bit; I had time to work on chipping and putting, and that’s kind of what carried me through.

“I didn’t really know what to expect coming out this season at all, so it’s been a lot of fun really. Gave me a different perspective last fall; I’ve said that on a number of occasions, and it’s true. I’m blessed to be out here to play and do the thing that I love to do.”

Following Sunday’s victory at Timuquana CC, Nicki grew reflective. She thought back to her time caddying at the start of Steve’s career, in uncertain times on smaller circuits and the Korn Ferry Tour after he turned pro in 1990 – he finished runner-up in his first Korn Ferry Tour start that summer, the Dakota Dunes Open.

It has been a tipsy-turvy journey at times, as Stricker felt lost off the tee at times in the mid-2000s, recording just three top-10s across a four-year period from 2002 to 2005.

But the tried-and-true golf family stayed the course. Nicki’s brother Mario, also a former TOUR player, has made 11 PGA TOUR Champions starts this season and was on-hand Sunday to provide congratulations.

Daughter Bobbi was on-hand as well, filming behind-the-scenes of the winner’s interview for posterity. Bobbi advanced through Stage I of Epson Tour Q-School with her dad on the bag, and he’ll plan to caddy again at Stage II next month.

Daughter Izzi will compete in a high school state tournament starting Monday; Steve, Nicki and Bobbi flew home Sunday evening to be on-hand.

The family unit sticks together, making the celebration all the sweeter when the times are good.

“We do a lot together as a family,” Stricker said. “We play a lot of golf together as a family; we root each other on in our golf games and we help support each other. It’s a family thing. We enjoy being with each other and we enjoy rooting each other on.”

Let the good times roll.

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