Jan 10, 201202:44 PM

‘I wanna be like Steve’

Golf Channel has been running promos thanking viewers for “making 2011 our most watched year ever.”

I’m thinking 2012 will be pretty good for them, too, if I’m any indication. I just gave them about 20 hours of eyeball time over the weekend watching the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, or what probably could have called “The Steve Stricker Show,” starring Steve Stricker as Steve Stricker.

Man, Newt Gingrich just spent $3.4 million of someone else’s money on TV time in South Carolina and he won’t get as fawning coverage as our own favorite son got from Johnny, Nick, Kelly and the gang. “He’s a good man,” Johnny said. “That’s all you can say.”

No, they could say a lot more, and did, even if we have heard it all many times before. Nicest guy on tour. Had a horrific slump. Wants to be a good family man first. Still might win a major, though time is running out. Emotional (though hard as they tried they couldn’t make Steve cry on Monday night). All true, and I was rooting as hard for him as anyone.

But can I pick one little nit here? The golf season was not yet one hour old and we were already hearing the old story about how Stricker chooses to stay in the land of the frozen tundra (funny, I had played nine holes on Friday just before they were saying that) and remade his game by hitting balls out of a trailer in Madison. It always makes it sound like he was hitting three-woods out the open window of a rusted Winnebago. Later, Frank Nobilo went to commercial by saying Stricker “hit balls out of a ski hut, and it looks like he’s warming up at the right time.” And later still – I told you I watched a lot of golf last weekend – Brandel Chamblee declared Stricker “went home and hit balls out of that barn.”

So what is it, Golf Channel? A single-wide in a trailer park at the edge of town, a ski hut or a barn?

And while I’m ranting, what about the writer for Fox Sports who, in decrying the strength of the field at Kapalua, wrote, “Steve Stricker’s one of my favorite players, but if the Wisconsin farm boy is your headliner, it had better be the John Deere Classic.”

Farm boy? Beautiful, just beautiful. Next you know we’ll be hearing some powdered-face analyst telling viewers how Stricker hits balls out of that barn but only when the cows are in the pasture.

There was no end to the Stricker love over the weekend, and not only on TV. The panel of writers for Golf magazine and Sports Illustrated who participate in the weekly online PGA Tour Confidential and tackle such heady parlor game questions as “Ginger, or Mary Ann” or “What single course would you choose for a buddy trip?” took on this dilemma – who would you trade places with, Stricker or Tiger Woods?

The first three chose Stricker hands down. “It’s a great question, and I don’t even have to think about it,” said SI’s John Garrity. “I’d trade lives with Stricker. Tiger’s world, even with all his accomplishments, holds no appeal for me.” Jim Ritter of Golf.com would take Stricker’s “big bank account and relative anonymity” but would rather be Tiger at his Vegas bachelor party. The others were pretty much split between Stricker, for a good, simple life, and Woods, for “those Sundays at Augusta” and, in one case, because “everyone likes a good, old-fashioned story filled with a little debauchery.”

Me? I’m thinking there’s no wrong answer. While I was watching the final round Monday night I was also paging through the new issue of Golf Digest, which included the magazine’s annual round-up of the biggest 50 earners in golf last year. Tiger led the list with just over $2 million earned on the course and a whopping $62 million off, while Stricker was listed in 29th place for earning $4.47 million on the course and another $3.6 million off. (For more on the Golf Digest list, click here.)

Even with that our favorite farm boy ought to be able to upgrade to a double-wide, don’t you think? 


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