Steve Stricker's sleep issues, some hope for Houston, and an unlikely rookie-of-year favorite
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I Think …
Steve Stricker wakes up some early mornings and isn’t able to fall back asleep. Actually, I know, as he admitted it’s one of the most tangible effect of being leader of a U.S. golf team. “I’m thinking about things a lot,” said the U.S. Presidents Cup captain on Sunday night. “It’s probably the hardest part of the captaincy, making sure you make the right the right picks.” Even on the Labor Day weekend, when Striker was moving his daughter back to college, he found himself on the phone with vice captains Tiger Woods and Davis Love III. “I haven’t been able to watch much on TV,” Stricker said after the third round of the Dell Technologies Championship. “I’ve been following it on the phone. Every half hour I’m getting out of there to see how guys are doing.” What he saw as it relates to players on the bubble at TPC Boston was not much of a case for picking Charley Hoffman (10th on the points list, with the top 10 securing automatic spots), Kevin Chappell (11) or Brian Harman (12). “It’s an important part of the team,” Stricker said. “You want to make sure the two guys you pick are going to fit with the team. Hopefully they’re playing good. It’s a big decision, and I think about it quite often.” What he thinks often about are Phil Mickelson, especially as he is trying to make a case for himself with rounds of 69-67-69 in Boston. “It’s weird,” Stricker admitted. “I had a talk with him [at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational] in Akron. Here I am asking Phil Mickelson to show me something for the rest of the year. Here’s a guy with 12 tour wins asking a guy with 40-something tour wins and five majors, asking him to show me something before the end of the year. It just doesn’t seem quite right.” What sounds right is that with one round to play and the picks announced on Wednesday night, Mickelson has a real chance at age 47, with only one top-10 in 2017 since March, to make his 12th Presidents Cup team. “Phil’s in a position where, I don’t know how to say it, I’d like to see him play well,” Stricker said. “I know how much he means to the team, not only as a player, but a guy that’s in the team room. He means a lot. I don’t know if any guy outside the top 10 can say that. He’s just really good in the team room and that’s vital. I’d like to see him show something this week, which is great to see.”
I Saw …
The photo posted on Twitter by Steve Timms, president and CEO of the Houston Golf Association, of mowers on the first green at the Golf Club of Houston. While acknowledging that way down the priority list are Houston’s golf courses, there was also a sense of relief hearing that the two courses hosting tour stops in the flooded city have actually opened for play in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, just as there was the Houston Astros opening the doors of Minute Maid Park for a doubleheader with the New York Mets over the weekend.
Symbolically, it means the same for golfers and golf charities that benefit from the Insperity Invitational on the PGA Tour Champions, as well as the Houston Open at GC of H. “People that depend on us are encouraged that the golf course is bouncing back,” Timms told me on Sunday of Labor Day weekend. Having visited White Sulphur Springs and The Greenbrier Resort after the West Virginia flood in 2016, I can only equate what Timms must be feeling to the sense of pride and victory I saw when the Greenbrier Classic returned this past July to the Old White. On a lesser scale in a bigger grid is the Houston Open, a tournament still without a title sponsor for 2018 that has donated $70 million to charity in its history. “[Houston] is such a vast area,” Timms said. “There are so many people affected that have dire circumstances. Part of the city will be flooded for two more weeks, but you remain hopeful that things are going to be all right for those folks.” One can only hope.
I Heard …
From Grayson Murray’s manager that the 23-year-old didn’t want to do one-on-one interviews during tournament week at the Dell Technologies Championship, which I get. Murray entered the second FedEx Cup playoff event ranked 70th in points, with the top 70 advancing to the third event, the BMW Championship. But eventually Murray had to talk based on his play at TPC Boston. With rounds of 68-68-67, the rookie found himself tied for fourth with a late tee time on Labor Day Monday. Although surrounded by major champions on the tee sheet, Murray was talking about not being scared of the moment, or scared of winning. Just like he wasn’t scared of winning on Sunday at the PGA Championship. “I legitimately had a chance at Quail [Hollow] this year in the PGA,” Murray said. “It wasn’t because I was nervous. It just got caught up with bad driving.”
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Nothing seems to have caught up with him at the Dell. He’s played his last 22 holes in eight under and was four-of-five scrambling on Sunday. For someone better known for his social-media rants at the beginning of the year, and later for his anxiety and depression issues, Murray is becoming identified more for his golf since winning the Barbasol Championship in July, the same week as the Open Championship. He has not tweeted since the day after the Barbasol, thanking his mother and father for all they sacrificed so he could pursue his dream. That dream could lead to East Lake for the Tour Championship and possibly Rookie of the Year honors depending on how it plays out the remainder of the playoffs. “If my season ends right now, I’ve had a great year,” Murray said. “I don’t put any pressure on me. But obviously the goal is to get to East Lake.”