As recently as this week, Steve Stricker talked about playing less on the PGA Tour and more on the PGA Tour Champions during 2019.
But the Madison golfer's first event on the senior circuit will be new to his schedule.
Stricker was announced Saturday among the 42 golfers, including defending champion Jerry Kelly of Madison, who will tee it up at next week's Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. The 23rd annual event features tournament champions from the 2017 and '18 seasons, winners of PGA Tour Champions major championships since 2014, eight additional invitees based on career PGA Tour victories and major championships and World Golf Hall of Fame members who played at least eight PGA Tour Champions events in 2018.
"Each year, excitement builds as we watch our field populate with legends of the game who have competed at Hualalai countless times," tournament director Kelly Fliear said in a news release, "along with fresh faces earning their first qualification to the event."
That group would include Bart Bryant, Steve Flesch, Scott Parel, Ken Tanigawa and Stricker, who earned his spot in the field with his first three Champions tour victories in 2018. Stricker, 51, who finished in the top five in each of his seven starts on the over-50 circuit a year ago, won the Cologuard Classic, the Rapiscan Systems Classic and the Sanford International.
"Gtting in contention and winning out there (on PGA Tour Champions) has been a lot of fun," Stricker said earlier this week before opening his 2019 schedule on the PGA Tour at the Sony Open in Hawaii in Honolulu where he opened 71-67 this week and made his 371st career cut on the regular tour.
"It's kind of a catch-22 because I'm excited to play and win out there, but it drives me to do some better things out here, too. So it's kind of working both ways. When I come here and play well on the regular tour, if I show some good signs, it helps me when I go to the Champions Tour, too. They are kind of feeding off one another."
Stricker will need all the good karma he can get as the distinguished field for the PGA Tour Champions' season-opener takes aim at trying to dethrone Kelly, who won the 2017 MEC Championship in dramatic fashion.
The 52-year-old made an 18-foot birdie on the final hole to catch Colin Montgomerie, who missed a 6-footer for par as Kelly walked away with his only victory of the 2018 season and the third of his career. It came just three days after Kelly was named 2017 PGA Tour Champions Rookie of the Year.
All three past winners of Madison's American Family Insurance Championship are in the field: Kirk Triplett (2016), Fred Couples (2017) and Scott McCarron (2018).