AmFam - Steve Stricker putt.jpg

Steve Stricker keeps a close eye on his putt on the seventh green on Friday during the opening round of the American Family Insurance Championship.

Wisconsin.Golf photo/Jim Kelsh

Steve Stricker was lamenting his inability to play four solid rounds the last two weeks on the PGA Tour as he spoke with reporters Wednesday in Naples, Florida, ahead of his 2018 PGA Tour Champions debut at the Chubb Classic.

"Fortunately, we only play three rounds out here," Chris Richards, media manager for the PGA Tour champions, joked as he invited other questions.

That was a big one. The Madison golfer managed to shake off enough rust from a competitive game that had sat dormant since last August prior to the Waste Management Phoenix Open two weeks ago, but he wasn't able to stay sharp enough long enough to stay near the top of the leaderboard there or at last week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where he was three shots off the lead entering the final round, shot 76 and finished 10 shots off the pace.

"Yeah, it's something that I'm not too happy with, that I only played three gold rounds out of four," Stricker said. "Coming here, though, I think it's a different mentality altogether. You need to be aggressive, you need to get off to a good start, you don't want to get behind out here because a lot of guys are shooting low. You want to make sure that you don't need a hero round to come back and try to finish well or win the tournament."

Stricker, who turns 51 on February 23, only played in six events in 2017 after becoming eligible for the senior circuit. That included the one that he hosts at University Ridge in Madison -- the American Family Insurance Championship.

After making the cut in 11 of 13 starts on the PGA Tour — including all four major championships — a year ago, Stricker felt strongly that late last fall that most of his time in 2018 would be spent on the regular tour. Although he is not exempt for any of the four majors this year, that could still be the case.

However, his appearance this week in Naples means Stricker will play back-to-back events on the PGA Tour Champions. He has committed to the Cologuard Classic, hosted by fellow Madison golfer Jerry Kelly, in two weeks in Tucson, Arizona, where he took second in his PGA Tour Champions debut last year.

"It was either L.A. or here," Stricker said, referring to the Genesis Open on the PGA Tour being played this week at Riviera CC in Pacific Palisades, California. "We enjoy our time down here so much. (Wife) Nicki and my youngest daughter (Izzy) are here. My oldest daughter (Bobbi) was here over the weekend. We just enjoy being down here. And the weather looks great."

Stricker should have a good vibe playing golf in the Naples area. 

He and partner Sean O'Hair teamed up to win the QBE Shootout, an unofficial team event, in at nearby Tiburon GC. This will be Stricker's first visit to The TwinEagles Club's Talon Course, designed by Jack Nicklaus and son Jackie, and, from what he has seen, he likes the options it might afford him.

"There's some driving holes that you can be aggressive on or you can lay back on and I'm going to have to figure that out," said Stricker, who figures the need to make birdie -- right from the get-go -- will dictate an aggressive plan. "It's definitely on my mind that I want to get off to a good start and put togehter three good rounds. ... You've got to be ... more aggressive out here, I feel like. There's more birdies out here, where on the (regular) Tour you can play a little bit smarter and plod your way around and try to not make bogeys. So it's a little different. But, obviously, its the game of golf and there's a lot of similarities, too."