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PGA Tour Confidential: Northern Trust Open

Steve Stricker, Northern Trust Open
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Steve Stricker moved to No. 2 in the world with his win at the Northern Trust Open.

Every week of the 2010 PGA Tour season, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group will conduct an e-mail roundtable. Check in on Mondays for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I Tweeted earlier that, while it's a long way off, it would be pretty amazing if the next player who unseats Tiger Woods as No. 1 in the world is Steve Stricker. After four wins in the last 14 months, Stricker looks like America's best with Tiger on the sideline. As a cheesehead myself, I'm pretty pleased to see Stricker take his game to new levels, and I think he's good for golf as a kind of opposite to Tiger and Phil — a low-key, humble, unassuming guy from a small town. Your thoughts on the biggest celebrity ever born in Edgerton, Wis.?

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: No question Sticker is a great guy who is beloved in the locker room, press room and caddie yard. But if he's No. 1, golf is in trouble. The dude doesn't exactly set the pulse of the average sports fan racing. Or even most hard-core golf fans.

(Alan Shipnuck answers readers' questions every Friday in his weekly mailbag. Ask a question here.)

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I beg to differ with my esteemed colleague. If Stricker becomes No. 1, not only is golf not in trouble, but it's actually a reminder of who makes it in golf: the guy who shoots the lowest scores, regardless of his Q-rating. Wayne Levi lives!

Van Sickle: Maybe Stricker is becoming a star before our eyes and is poised for a Vijay-like run in his 40s.

John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: Stricker really impressed me when I wrote a feature on him a couple of years ago, a piece that asked if even HE believed he was the third-ranked player in the world. It's pretty clear now that he is that good, and he knows he is that good.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: How can you not root for Steve Stricker? So humble and genuine. And is there a better putter on the planet? Even the ones that don't go in scare the hole.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: His stroke really is a thing of beauty — so simple, just back and forth, no "swinging gate" to worry about.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I like the guy. Neat story, and if you saw how bad Stricker was hitting it six years ago, you'd be crying, too. Fun new parlor game would be to come up with lines that might set him off. Hey, Steve, look at the sunset!

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: It is beautiful, but it's hard to give truly "amazing" putting props to somebody who's never won a major. If Stricker were that good a putter, he'd have at least one major.

Godich: He's one of if not the best putter on Tour — whether he has won a major or not. You don't have to have one to be the other. And, he will break through sooner rather than later. He's just learning how to close out Tour events. He's ready to take the next step.

Van Sickle: Stricker's biggest issue, since straightening out his driver a few years ago, has been finishing. He looked nervy even at Riviera but played through it. We've seen him spit the bit quite a few times, especially in some majors where he was near the lead on Sunday. The new Strick may be ready to face that pressure now and overcome it.

Bamberger: He looked more confident at the Presidents Cup than I had ever seen him before. I think the pairing with Woods really lifted him.

David Dusek, deputy editor, And the compliments from Tiger afterward must have helped too. Essentially Woods said that all he was trying to do was stay out of Stricker's way because he was making everything in sight. And he was. But which major sets up best for a guy like Stricker? Is he long enough to win at Augusta or St. Andrews? Pebble Beach might not be a bad fit, but Whistling Straits could be awkward. If he's going to win a major, where will it be?

Shipnuck : You gotta think Stricker will be a factor at the Masters, or what Johnny Miller used to call the Augusta National Annual Spring Putting Contest.

Dusek: For what it's worth, Stricker has played in nine Masters. He's missed the cut five times (including in 2007 and 2008), but his best finish was last year when he tied for sixth.

Van Sickle: Dennis Tiziani always thought Steve's best major would be the Masters, presumably because of his precise iron play (it's a second-shot course in most ways) and short game. He's done well in U.S. Opens, too. I'd give him a good chance at Pebble. The PGA Championship at Whistling Straits will be a home game, which may help him or hurt him, not sure. St. Andrews seems like it has become a power-hitter's track, but you never know.

Godich: You have to like him at any Open venue. His wedge and short game are that good.

Van Sickle: Maybe golf needs a squeaky clean good guy to be No. 1 right now after Tiger's troubles and Phil's wedge switch and stiffing the WGC-Accenture Match Play. Maybe someone who's above the fray is better for the game now than a big name with issues.

Bamberger: That's right, Gary, and Stricker was the first to say it would serve Tiger well to come back and be more open.

Morfit: I agree that it's refreshing that Stricker just goes and plays the game. It seems like we're always waiting for Tiger to come back from this or that, and Phil has had his own issues lately. Of course some of these issues couldn't be avoided, but still ... enough! Just play the damn game!

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