With defense of his Crowne Plaza Invitational title at Colonial CC approaching fast, Steve Stricker is ready to give his injured right shoulder a full tryout Wednesday.
The No. 4 player in the world, Stricker plans to play 18 holes at Maple Bluff CC in Madison, Wis., with fellow PGA Tour pro Jerry Kelly and ESPN golf analyst and Champions Tour player Andy North. It will be Stricker's first 18-hole round since he withdrew after the pro-am April 21 at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans.
"It will be four weeks to the day since I last played 18 holes, so we'll see how that goes," Stricker, 41, said from his home in Madison. "I'm swinging without pain, so that's good, but there is still a little tightness, a little catch in it. That part bothers me. But I have to see where I am."
Stricker is suffering from an inflamed sternoclavicular joint, the joint where the clavicle meets the sternum near the shoulder. He won the Northern Trust Open in February, but has struggled since because of the injury. He didn't touch a club for more than two weeks. His doctors cleared him late last week to start hitting balls again, and he twice has played nine holes and got in six holes Sunday.
Stricker said he has consulted with orthopedist John Orwin and has been undergoing physical therapy with the help of Mark Sherry, both of whom practice at the University of Wisconsin Sports Medicine Center. He has not yet had an MRI, but admits that remains an option if the problem returns. These past few weeks he's been a good, if frustrated, patient.
"I haven't done much in the way of golf. I've enjoyed my time at home with the family, actually," said Stricker, who was disappointed by having to pull out of the Players. "I definitely miss playing, though. I'm trying not to overdo it right now, but it's hard."
The big test, he said, is not the Wednesday round but ramping up his range work. "I really don't foresee any problems playing 18 on Wednesday, but I want to see how it reacts when I start hitting balls for so many days in a row. I'm hoping the problem stays away."
-- Dave Shedloski