Steve Stricker is taking the Mercedes-Benz Championship seriously after qualifying for it for the first time in 6 years.
Stricker takes Maui visit seriously
KAPALUA, Maui » It would have been easy for Steve Stricker to come over here with his family and enjoy his days at the beach.
But because it was the first time in six years that Stricker has qualified for the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship, he took this tournament very seriously.
"I was happy to be here, but I came here thinking about winning this time," Stricker said. "I didn't think about coming here and having just a good time, which I am having a good time, but I wanted to put a little more emphasis on trying to get off to a good start this year and trying to get in contention this first week of the year."
His mental framework seems to be working. After opening with a pedestrian 73 in tough conditions on Thursday, Stricker is 9 under over the last 36 holes, including yesterday's 5-under 68 that left him in a tie for sixth, four shots off the pace of third-round leader Mike Weir.
"You know, I still haven't practiced after the rounds and stuff like that," Stricker said. "Where you just go back and spend the time with the family and everything. But I came here looking to try to get in contention this first week and to try to get the win."
Stricker's story was well documented last year. After winning twice in 1996 and once in 2001, the 40-year-old from Madison, Wis., dropped off the map. He was No. 189 on the money list in 2003, No. 151 in 2004 and No. 162 in 2005, before coming back to life over the last two seasons, including a huge win at The Barclays last year during the PGA Tour playoffs.
He finished second in the FedExCup standings to Tiger Woods and was named the comeback player of the year.
"It's just been great," Stricker said of his recent success. "It's been six years since I've been here. You know, you wonder if you're ever going to win again, whether you're ever going to get back here again. I have my daughter at home thinking as soon as I win we get to go to Hawaii.
"So there's a little bit of pressure there trying to win so we can come over and play and participate in this. It's been a lot of fun and you definitely want to make this your first tournament of the year, every year if it's possible. It's a great place to star the year."
Leading after 54 a good thing
Weir has to feel pretty good about his chances based on past history here.
Four of the last five golfers to lead after 54 holes have gone on to win.
The Canadian does have a little history working against him on two different fronts.
Phil Mickelson is the only lefty to ever win the Mercedes, but since he hasn't visited the island chain since 2001, Weir might be able to break that jinx in the coming campaigns. This marks the ninth time that Weir has held or shared a 54-hole lead.
He has gone on to win only once with two seconds. The lone victory was at the 2004 Nissan Open in Los Angeles.
Inside the numbers
For the third consecutive day, a par 3 was the most difficult hole. And for the second time, it was the tricky No. 8 where you have to hit over a gorge that guards the front of the green. The scoring average there was 3.065. There were three birdies, 23 pars and five bogeys.
The easiest hole was the par-5 15th for the second time in three days with a scoring average of 4.484. There were 17 birdies, 13 pars and one bogey by Mark Calcavecchia. The tournament average yesterday was nearly four strokes better than the opening round.