Steve Stricker has maintained a reputation as one of the game’s best putters for years, often helping his fellow players hone their strokes, but at this week’s Ally Challenge on the PGA Champions Tour, the teacher suddenly became the student.
Despite suffering from a debilitating virus that kept him from competing for months after last year’s Ryder Cup, Stricker has been back in top form on the senior circuit, with a win, three runner-ups and a total of six top 10s in eight events.
Stricker’s consistency has vaulted him to fifth in the Charles Schwab Cup standings — but a first-round score of 70 at this week’s Ally Challenge in Michigan put him well back of the lead on Friday.
That’s when Stricker called in longtime buddy Jerry Kelly, who helped tune up Stricker’s putting stroke ahead of Stricker’s second round.
The extra set of eyes apparently paid off, as Stricker went on to card nine birdies en route to a second-round score of 64. He’s now one shot behind leader Scott Dunlap heading into the final round.
“I got to give credit to my pal Jerry, Jerry Kelly,” Stricker said after his round on Saturday. “Yeah, I gave him a putting lesson a couple months ago, and Nicki and him worked on me last night, and they noticed a couple things that I wasn’t doing very well. And here I give all these lessons and they’re telling me the same things that I tell them. So just not paying attention to some of the basics that I have been doing throughout my career. And Jerry pointed those out to me. And Nicki, too. They were both there. And I putted a lot better today. I started the ball online a lot, and had good speed, and finally made a few.”
So what was it that Kelly and Stricker’s wife and caddie, Nicki, noticed in Stricker’s putting stroke?
“I have been lining up to the right,” Stricker said. “And that’s a tendency of mine. But I was getting too far to the right. The blade was getting open in the back, on the back of my backswing. And I was trying to find the squareness of the pace coming through.
“I couldn’t even feel like I could accelerate down the line,” he continued. “I always felt like I had to kind of manipulate it to get it back online. So as soon as I got a little bit square in my hands, I felt like I could extend down the line and accelerate down the line a lot better.”
What works for Stricker could work for us too.
Stricker will attempt to claim his second PGA Tour Champions title of the season when he tees off alongside Dunlap at 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.