Steve Stricker has an important lesson for all of the young pros out there: if it ain't broke, don't fix it -- not even if you see Tiger Woods doing something you're not.
In a piece for The Player's Tribune, the 12-time PGA Tour winner lamented the first time he teed it up with a younger, trailblazing Woods at the 1997 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, saying that watching the 22-year-old superstar play was a shot to his confidence. When he finished his round, one that repeatedly saw the 30-year-old (at the time) Stricker 50 yards shorter off the tee than Woods, Stricker started to doubt his own ability.
“After the first round had ended, I told Nicki, my wife and caddy, what I had been thinking since the moment we left the course: 'I can't compete with that type of game. I just can’t compete with that,'" Stricker writes. “This was the first big blow to my confidence as a golfer.”
Stricker says his game started to unravel, and his mental strength around travel, missing his family, and self-confidence made it a "very sad time" for him.
That is, until the Golden Bear came along.
Stricker goes on to describe one of his lowest moment in his career, a very poor round in the early 2000s at Doral, in front of playing partner Jack Nicklaus. Stricker was embarrassed, but Nicklaus offered support and a few tips.
Recalling his conversation with the 18-time major winner, Stricker writes: "'Steve, I'll see you over on the range. I have a thing or two I want to show you about how you're swinging the driver.' A minute or so later, over on the range, Jack stood a few feet away from me, arms crossed, watching me push a tee into the ground. He gave me a few quick tips, and it wasn’t long before I was striping the ball."
And while it was still many months -- and years -- before Stricker found his stride again (he recently contended at the Valspar Championship before finishing tied for seventh, and he finished last week's FedEx St. Jude Classic tied for second), it was a beacon of hope from Nicklaus that got him started.
"I hope that my story can be a cautionary tale for all the young professionals out there," Stricker concludes. "There's a tremendous amount of talent in our game. My advice to young golfers may be cliché, but it’s still incredibly important: Don't try to fix something that isn't broken. Golfers on the PGA Tour are at the highest level because they’ve stayed true to their game."