Steve Stricker is playing golf this week with guys his own age, which is a far cry from the company the 53-year-old Madison golfer has kept of late.
Last week, Stricker played a practice round with 23-year-old Collin Morikawa, who went on to win the PGA Championship.
A few weeks before that, Stricker got the chance to tee it up with 26-year-old Bryson DeChambeau and see for himself the impact protein shakes are having on the game of golf and DeChambeau's ability to average 324 yards per drive.
And throughout this whole, crazy COVID-19 pandemic? You really don't want to know what happens when a U.S. Ryder Cup captain has the biennial matches — originally scheduled for this September in Wisconsin — postponed a year.
"I got into Fortnite," Stricker told reporters in Akron, Ohio, on the eve of the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship, the first major championship of 2020 on the PGA Tour Champions schedule. "Stupid game. And I don't — I don't know where that came from, but it, it's kind of consumed some of my time, even lately. I bring it now with me out on the road and pass the time.
"But I'm trying to wean myself off that game. During the quarantine, when it first happened, I was playing quite a bit. I had nothing else to do, right? We play golf and then I play Fortnight. And the kids started playing with me, too. And (wife) Nicki tried to, but she got frustrated with it and ended that pretty quickly. But yeah, I still get into that. The kids have stopped playing. They know better. And I continue on."
Asked if he had any special celebratory dances made popular by the video game, Stricker said: "I've got a couple dances when I do something well. I will throw it at the guys."
However, Stricker declined to give reporters a taste of the dance moves that the Fortnite world sees from the five-time PGA Tour Champions winner. And, according to oldest daughter Bobbi, that might be all for the best.
Although he has played in just one of the seven events on the senior circuit during the 2020 season, Stricker said at last week's PGA Championship that he might just play a fortnight — that's two weeks — on the senior circuit. Or maybe more with PGA Tour Champions spending the next two weeks in Branson, Mo., with two new events added to the schedule by COVID-19.
For now, he'll see how his game holds up against the over-50 crowd for the first time since finishing tied for fifth at The Cologuard Classic in March. Since then, Stricker has played a lot of golf at home with his wife and two daughters during the three-month hiatus from competitive golf caused by COVID-19. Since golf's return in mid-June, Stricker has played six times on the PGA Tour with his best finish a tie for 11th at The Memorial.
The biggest adjustment, Stricker said, has been to playing without fans as the 81-player field will do again this week at Firestone Country Club.
"It's a weird, weird deal we're going through, trying to play golf with nobody around," Stricker said. "And I'm struggling finding the excitement level at times. There is no question. So you've got to try and find ways of trying to motivate yourself."
Stricker, who is exempt for the U.S. Open next month at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York, is well aware that the winner of this event is exempt for the 2021 Players Championship on the PGA Tour. That is enough motivation for him.
"That carrot at the end," Stricker said. "The winner gets the spot in The Players Championship field, so it's a major out here on this (senior) tour and one that guys are fighting to win and would love to win and I'm no different."
Until the Ryder Cup postponement, Stricker intended to play a heavy schedule of PGA Tour Champions events in 2021. With his captaincy extended another year, Stricker will be pushing 55 by the time his schedule is cleared enough to play the senior circuit on a regular basis in 2022.
"I still have aspirations of staying out there on the regular tour awhile," Stricker said. "I was thinking my time out there was going to be done in September, but pushing the Ryder Cup back, I feel like I need to stay out there some more and just playing like I did last week with Collin Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau a few weeks ago. It's just being out there and being present.
"Obviously, I want to play well while I'm there and then come back here occasionally and play well here, too. So (it's) unfortunate that in one regard that I won't be here full-time next year; I will still be back and forth a little bit because of the Ryder Cup. But it is what it is, and I look forward to both of them."