Nicki Stricker, Steve Stricker

Madison's Steve Stricker, with wife Nicki on the bag, followed up Thursday's 65 with a 66 Friday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.  

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Ryder Cup captains are supposed to be the ones handing out words of encouragement to their players, not the ones receiving it.

Steve Stricker is starting to get the idea that his week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open isn't going to follow that script.

With his 54th birthday a little less than three weeks away, the Madison native got the attention of a few golfers who might be doing the heavy lifting in September when the Ryder Cup comes to Whistling Straits after he shot 65 and made a Thursday appearance on the leaderboard at TPC Scottsdale. Stricker couldn't wait for the reaction Friday after a second-round 66 pushed him into a share of the lead until Xander Schauffele — No. 4 in the U.S. Ryder Cup points standings — birdied No. 18 to finish off a 6-under-par 30 on the back nine and a 7-under 64 for the day, slipping past the U.S. captain and Keegan Bradley for a one-stroke advantage halfway through this PGA Tour event.

"(Brandt) Snedeker was in my kitchen, saying 'You need to smile. You're leading the tournament. Why aren't you smiling?'" Stricker said of the two-time Ryder Cup member. "I got a couple other texts from guys, too, so it was good. You know, I know all those cliches; (Thursday) was only one round so I knew (Friday) was an important day to come out and try to back that one up."

Stricker has backed up the hands of time with the way he has carved up TPC Scottsdale. 

His 11-under 131 start is his best on the PGA Tour since 2012, when he opened 68-63 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, closed with a pair of 69s and won by three shots. That was also the last of the 12 PGA Tour victories for Stricker, who has just seven top-25 finishes in 34 starts on the regular tour since turning 50 in 2017 and last flirted with victory in 2016 when he finished second by three shots to Daniel Berger at the Fed-Ex St. Jude Classic. 

"(Winning again) would mean a lot," said Stricker, who — at 53 years, 11 months and 7 days — would surpass Sam Snead, who won the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open at 52 years, 10 months and 8 days, as the oldest winner in the history of the PGA Tour.

"I mean, I know it's a long shot. I've got to play my very best, just like anybody else does out here. But, you know, I've been there. I've won a few times out on this tour and I know what it takes, although it has been awhile. It would be fun to see how I handle it if I do get that opportunity."

For a golfer ranked No. 460 in the Official World Golf Ranking, No. 167 in the FedEx Cup standings and No. 111 in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings (for those dreaming of a playing captain in his home state), Stricker handled the limelight well Friday.

Playing alongside fellow Madison golfer Jerry Kelly and European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington for the second day in a row, Stricker started on No. 10 and rattled off birdies on the first four odd-numbered holes. Two of them (Nos. 13 and 15) were par-5s and Stricker added a birdie on the only par-5 on the front nine and another birdie at the par-3 seventh hole got him to 12-under and, for a time, two shots clear of the field.

However, errant approach shots on Nos. 8 and 9, a pair of par-4s, forced Stricker into scramble mode. He saved par with a 7-foot putt on the eighth hole, but missed a 10-footer on No. 9 after leaving his approach in a greenside bunker.

"It was a good day except for the last couple holes," Stricker said. "Hit a couple poor iron shots coming in. ... Other than that, it was a good day. I did a lot of good things again. I didn't drive it quite as well, but (I) gave myself some opportunities and made some nice putts again."

Kelly, 54, who finished birdie-birdie to shoot 69 only to miss the 36-hole cut by one shot, believes Stricker's putter can keep him in the mix on the weekend if his mind doesn't get too far ahead of the task at hand.

"That was absolutely vintage Steve — just get the ball in the fairway, get the ball on the green and try to make putts," Kelly told PGATour.com. "He’s got such a great short game. It’s just really consistent, really solid, really good golf. The putter was absolutely fantastic.”

Stricker, however, knows Saturday rounds in 72-hole PGA Tour events have been a challenge in recent years. He has bettered 70 just twice in his last 10 PGA Tour starts in which he has made the 36-hole cut and just four times in the last 20. He shot a third-round 77 at The Farmers Insurance Open near San Diego last week, but also shot a 65 in the third round of the Maykoba Classic in December.

At the same time, Stricker has recorded 22 top-10 finishes in 29 starts on the PGA Tour Champions since turning 50 in 2017. Five of those have been victories.

"I've got to clean up a couple little shots that I messed up coming in," Stricker said. "But I feel pretty good about my game and where it's going."

PGA Tour: Madison's Steve Stricker, Jerry Kelly; Wisconsin caddies at Waste Management Phoenix Open | Second-round results (TPC Scottsdale-Scottsdale, Ariz.)

POS Player Total Thru Today R1 R2 R3 R4 Score
Wisconsin leaderboard
T2 Steve Stricker
Caddie: Nicki Stricker, Madison
-11 F* -5 65 66 -- -- 131
CUT Jerry Kelly -2 --* -- 71 69 -- -- 140
CUT Sepp Straka
Caddie: Jon Turcott, Middleton
-2 -- -- 71 69 -- -- 140
CUT Erik van Rooyen
Caddie: Alex Gaugert, Lake Geneva
-2 -- -- 73 67 -- -- 140
Full leaderboard
1 Xander Schauffele -12 F -7 66 64 -- -- 130
T2 Steve Stricker -11 F* -5 65 66 -- -- 131
T2 Keegan Bradley -11 F -6 66 65 -- -- 131
T4 Scottie Scheffler -10 F* -6 67 65 -- -- 132
T4 Kyoung-Hoon Lee -10 F -5 66 66 -- -- 132
T4 Sam Burns -10 F -3 64 68 -- -- 132
7 Nate Lashley -9 F -2 64 69 -- -- 133
T8 Billy Horschel -8 F* -3 66 68 -- -- 134
T8 Jordan Spieth -8 F* -4 67 67 -- -- 134
T8 James Hahn -8 F -4 67 67 -- -- 134
T8 Matthew NeSmith -8 F E 63 71 -- -- 134
T8 Brooks Koepka -8 F -5 68 66 -- -- 134
T8 J.T. Poston -8 F* -5 68 66 -- -- 134
T8 Patton Kizzire -8 F* -6 69 65 -- -- 134
T8 Carlos Ortiz -8 F -4 67 67 -- -- 134
T16 Justin Thomas -7 F* -6 70 65 -- -- 135
T16 Cameron Tringale -7 F* -7 71 64 -- -- 135
T16 Nick Hardy -7 F -4 68 67 -- -- 135
T16 Lucas Glover -7 F* -8 72 63 -- -- 135
T16 Kevin Streelman -7 F* -4 68 67 -- -- 135
T21 Louis Oosthuizen -6 F* -4 69 67 -- -- 136
T21 Harold Varner III -6 F* -3 68 68 -- -- 136
T21 Bo Van Pelt -6 F -4 69 67 -- -- 136
T21 Matt Kuchar -6 F -4 69 67 -- -- 136
T21 Andrew Putnam -6 F -2 67 69 -- -- 136
T21 Mark Hubbard -6 F* 2 63 73 -- -- 136
T27 Adam Hadwin -5 F -1 67 70 -- -- 137
T27 Jon Rahm -5 F* -2 68 69 -- -- 137
T27 Brendan Steele -5 F* -4 70 67 -- -- 137
T27 Corey Conners -5 F -3 69 68 -- -- 137
T27 Ted Potter, Jr. -5 F E 66 71 -- -- 137
T27 Brendon Todd -5 F* -2 68 69 -- -- 137
T27 Will Zalatoris -5 F -5 71 66 -- -- 137
T27 Sam Ryder -5 F* -4 70 67 -- -- 137
T27 Matt Jones -5 F -2 68 69 -- -- 137
T27 Si Woo Kim -5 F -5 71 66 -- -- 137
T27 Russell Knox -5 F* -2 68 69 -- -- 137
T27 Rory McIlroy -5 F -4 70 67 -- -- 137
T27 Scott Stallings -5 F* -1 67 70 -- -- 137
T40 Russell Henley -4 F* -4 71 67 -- -- 138
T40 Webb Simpson -4 F* -6 73 65 -- -- 138
T40 Hideki Matsuyama -4 F* -4 71 67 -- -- 138
T40 Michael Kim -4 F E 67 71 -- -- 138
T40 Grayson Murray -4 F -3 70 68 -- -- 138
T40 Robby Shelton -4 F -5 72 66 -- -- 138
T40 Davis Riley -4 F* -5 72 66 -- -- 138
T40 Byeong Hun An -4 F -2 69 69 -- -- 138
T40 Kyle Stanley -4 F* -4 71 67 -- -- 138
T40 Ryan Palmer -4 F* -3 70 68 -- -- 138
T40 Zach Johnson -4 F* -1 68 70 -- -- 138
T40 Max Homa -4 F* -2 69 69 -- -- 138
T40 Richy Werenski -4 F* -2 69 69 -- -- 138
T40 Bo Hoag -4 F E 67 71 -- -- 138
T40 Brian Stuard -4 F* -3 70 68 -- -- 138
T55 Stewart Cink -3 F -1 69 70 -- -- 139
T55 Matthew Wolff -3 F* E 68 71 -- -- 139
T55 Aaron Wise -3 F* -6 74 65 -- -- 139
T55 Xinjun Zhang -3 F* -2 70 69 -- -- 139
T55 Emiliano Grillo -3 F -1 69 70 -- -- 139
T55 Luke List -3 F -4 72 67 -- -- 139
T55 Sungjae Im -3 F* -4 72 67 -- -- 139
T55 Bubba Watson -3 F -3 71 68 -- -- 139
T55 Satoshi Kodaira -3 F* E 68 71 -- -- 139
T55 Brian Harman -3 F -3 71 68 -- -- 139
T55 Henrik Norlander -3 F* E 68 71 -- -- 139
T55 Wyndham Clark -3 F -4 72 67 -- -- 139
CUT Denny McCarthy -2 -- -- 70 70 -- -- 140
CUT Beau Hossler -2 -- -- 70 70 -- -- 140
CUT Jerry Kelly -2 --* -- 71 69 -- -- 140
CUT Dylan Frittelli -2 -- -- 71 69 -- -- 140
CUT Adam Long -2 -- -- 72 68 -- -- 140
CUT Ryan Armour -2 --* -- 68 72 -- -- 140
CUT Brice Garnett -2 --* -- 70 70 -- -- 140
CUT Doc Redman -2 -- -- 72 68 -- -- 140
CUT Sepp Straka -2 -- -- 71 69 -- -- 140
CUT Kelly Kraft -2 -- -- 72 68 -- -- 140
CUT Jesse Mueller -2 -- -- 72 68 -- -- 140
CUT Joel Dahmen -2 --* -- 75 65 -- -- 140
CUT Tom Hoge -2 --* -- 66 74 -- -- 140
CUT Daniel Berger -2 -- -- 69 71 -- -- 140
CUT Nick Taylor -2 -- -- 70 70 -- -- 140
CUT Pat Perez -2 --* -- 69 71 -- -- 140
CUT Charley Hoffman -2 -- -- 71 69 -- -- 140
CUT Erik van Rooyen -2 -- -- 73 67 -- -- 140
CUT Danny Lee -1 -- -- 74 67 -- -- 141
CUT Kevin Tway -1 -- -- 73 68 -- -- 141
CUT Harris English -1 --* -- 72 69 -- -- 141
CUT Michael Thompson -1 --* -- 70 71 -- -- 141
CUT Tom Lewis -1 -- -- 70 71 -- -- 141
CUT C.T. Pan -1 --* -- 71 70 -- -- 141
CUT Talor Gooch -1 --* -- 70 71 -- -- 141
CUT Rory Sabbatini -1 --* -- 77 64 -- -- 141
CUT Jason Day -1 -- -- 71 70 -- -- 141
CUT Jason Dufner -1 --* -- 72 69 -- -- 141
CUT Austin Cook -1 --* -- 71 70 -- -- 141
CUT John Huh E --* -- 68 74 -- -- 142
CUT Patrick Rodgers E -- -- 72 70 -- -- 142
CUT Chez Reavie E --* -- 69 73 -- -- 142
CUT Robert Streb E --* -- 72 70 -- -- 142
CUT Mark Anguiano E --* -- 72 70 -- -- 142
CUT Scott Brown E -- -- 72 70 -- -- 142
CUT Rickie Fowler E -- -- 74 68 -- -- 142
CUT Cameron Champ E -- -- 68 74 -- -- 142
CUT Luke Donald E -- -- 73 69 -- -- 142
CUT Adam Schenk E --* -- 72 70 -- -- 142
CUT Charl Schwartzel 1 -- -- 72 71 -- -- 143
CUT Vaughn Taylor 1 --* -- 73 70 -- -- 143
CUT Troy Merritt 1 -- -- 74 69 -- -- 143
CUT Gary Woodland 1 --* -- 76 67 -- -- 143
CUT Keith Mitchell 1 --* -- 75 68 -- -- 143
CUT Jimmy Walker 1 --* -- 70 73 -- -- 143
CUT J.B. Holmes 1 -- -- 72 71 -- -- 143
CUT Harry Higgs 1 -- -- 75 68 -- -- 143
CUT Chris Kirk 2 -- -- 70 74 -- -- 144
CUT Padraig Harrington 2 --* -- 71 73 -- -- 144
CUT Tyler Duncan 2 -- -- 74 70 -- -- 144
CUT Martin Laird 2 -- -- 73 71 -- -- 144
CUT Scott Harrington 2 --* -- 72 72 -- -- 144
CUT Will Gordon 2 --* -- 70 74 -- -- 144
CUT William McGirt 3 -- -- 75 70 -- -- 145
CUT Jamie Lovemark 3 -- -- 70 75 -- -- 145
CUT Camilo Villegas 3 --* -- 74 71 -- -- 145
CUT Sung Kang 3 -- -- 77 68 -- -- 145
CUT Vincent Whaley 4 -- -- 73 73 -- -- 146
CUT Brian Gay 4 --* -- 72 74 -- -- 146
CUT Kevin Stadler 4 -- -- 72 74 -- -- 146
CUT Ryan Moore 4 --* -- 70 76 -- -- 146
CUT Hunter Mahan 6 -- -- 74 74 -- -- 148
CUT Martin Trainer 6 -- -- 75 73 -- -- 148
CUT Hudson Swafford 8 --* -- 77 73 -- -- 150
CUT John Augenstein 9 --* -- 76 75 -- -- 151
CUT Sebastián Muñoz 9 --* -- 78 73 -- -- 151

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