PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA – Steve Stricker and Phil Mickelson had a bet this year about which one of them would win a tournament first.
Turns out, they both won on the same weekend.
Mickelson won the WGC-Mexico Championship while Stricker was winning the Cologuard Classic on the PGA Tour Champions.
“He won down in Mexico which holds a little bit more than my Champions tour win, so now we kind of modified that bet,” Stricker said. “It was just a friendly wager, a bottle of wine. But for him, I don’t know what that means.”
Though their playing styles and personalities could hardly be more different, Stricker is using Mickelson as a role model of sorts. Now 51, Stricker is bouncing back and forth between the PGA Tour and the Champions circuit and regardless of which one he’s playing, Stricker finds himself looking at the other one wishing he was there.
“I’m like, what am I doing here? I should be over there. And when I’m here, it’s vice versa,” said Stricker, who has two senior victories this year.
Through two rounds of the Players Championship, Stricker is at 8-under-par 136 and among the leaders at the halfway point. There’s no second-guessing his decision to play the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass this week, where accuracy is more important than length, which fits the Stricker model.
“It’s been a constant struggle. My wife is telling me to be out here all the time. I want to be out here but it’s fun to win. I know it’s a long shot for me to win out here but I still think there’s one in there somewhere. That’s what keeps me coming out here.”
Mickelson, 47, is telling Stricker the same thing.
“He’s going to play out here as long as he can. We’ve had a couple of conversations about that. He’s flat out told me, what are you doing? You should be out here playing still,” Stricker said.
“He’s definitely played a role in some of my thinking and what he’s doing. The way he’s playing still spurs me on. Just the age, what he’s doing is impressive.”
Here’s where Stricker finds himself these days: He’s entered next week in both the AT&T Byron Nelson on the PGA Tour and in the Regions Tradition, a major championship for the seniors. Stricker has until 3 p.m. Monday to pick which event he will play.
If things go well this weekend at Sawgrass, he’ll probably roll into Dallas next week. If his game goes flat over the next two days, Stricker may go back to being one of the youngsters on the other tour.
“I’ve never won a major. Maybe try to win one on the Champions tour,” Stricker said.
Either way, Stricker will be playing next week while Mickelson will take a break after missing the cut at the Players Championship.
Might Stricker follow Mickelson’s lead with the long-sleeve shirts he’s been wearing?
“It’s not my look. Phil can pull it off but I don’t think I can,” Stricker said.