'Semiretired' Stricker just 1 back at Open

Steve Stricker reacts to a shot on the sixth hole of the third round of the Open, Saturday, June 15, 2013. The 46-year-old was at par, a stroke off the lead. DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer
Steve Stricker reacts to a shot on the sixth hole of the third round of the Open, Saturday, June 15, 2013. The 46-year-old was at par, a stroke off the lead. DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 16, 2013

Steve Stricker had hit the travel wall. Even when he was home, Stricker had come to realize, his mind wasn't there. He calls his new playing schedule "semiretirement."

At 46, he's choosing the car pool over playing at Pebble Beach.

He's focusing on majors, and World Golf Championships events in this country, and that's about it.

And he's a shot out of the lead in the U.S. Open.

A most happy start to Father's Day.

On Saturday, Stricker shot a par 70 at Merion, staying even for the tournament, a shot behind 54-hole leader Phil Mickelson. The first question to Stricker was about whether his play this week justifies how he has set up the schedule.

"Yeah, it does," said Stricker, in his seventh tournament of the year. "I really didn't know what to expect coming into this week. Last time I played was the Players Championship a month ago. I've been playing well at home, been hitting it well at home."

He added, "But that's home. It's not out here."

More than his play, "I feel like I'm doing the right thing by not playing. I'm enjoying my time at home, so it all makes sense in my mind that I guess that's the most important thing. And I'm happy the way I'm striking it."

His wife and teenage daughter and a friend of his daughter are with him here. Stricker made it clear he doesn't mind working on Father's Day.

"They're loving it," Stricker said. "The girls are up to 11:30, it seems like every night. No curfew here. And frozen yogurt at night. And they're loving life."

The tour had always been a family affair for Stricker. His wife, Nikki, had been his caddie before she gave birth to their daughter.

Stricker also was asked about being "a savage" in a rental-car ad that gets a lot of play during golf telecasts, playing off his mild-mannered image.

"I hear that quite a bit out in the gallery now," Stricker said. "And I'm not a savage by any means. I guess that's the funny part of the commercial. I felt like a dork making it, but it was all good, all in good fun."

Winning Sunday at Merion, winning his first major, becoming the oldest man to win the U.S. Open obviously would be the high point of his career. But Stricker said, "I really wasn't all that nervous today. I was excited. I was happy to be in the position I was in."

He thinks not knowing what to expect of himself has played in his favor.

"I'm pleasantly surprised," Stricker said.


Contact Mike Jensen at mjensen@phillynews.com. Follow @jensenoffcampus on Twitter.

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