- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 10, 2012

KAPALUA, HAWAII (AP) - Mention the best American golfers and Steve Stricker is on everyone’s list, just as he was 15 years ago.

The difference is that he bought into it back then.

Now he doesn’t care.

He was the highest-ranked American in the field at Kapalua, where the no-show list of 11 players included three major champions. Stricker was asked at the start of the week if he saw himself as the main headliner. He smiled sheepishly and said, “No.”

“There’s nobody I would rather watch play golf than Steve Stricker, personally, as a fan,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said on Sunday as Stricker was leading by five shots in the third round.

When this was mentioned to Stricker, someone jokingly suggested that Finchem was sipping a Mai Tai when he said it.

“Was he drunk?” Stricker said with a laugh.

Stricker won the Tournament of Champions by three shots on Monday. It was his eighth win in his last 50 tournaments, the highest winning rate of anyone on the PGA Tour in that span. Martin Laird, the runner-up, called Stricker the most underrated player in golf.

His reaction? Another smile.

“You’re asking the wrong guy,” Stricker said.

Winning for the 12th time in his career was special, along with telling his family they get to come back to Maui next year. Having his two daughters greet him with a hug on the 18th green made it even sweeter. The plaudits? The world ranking? Trying to assess where he belong among a global lineup of stars?

It no longer matters to him.

What defines Stricker is what caddie Jimmy Johnson says to him whenever he needs a pep talk.

“Do what you do.”

“I think that sums it up the best,” Stricker said. “We just go about and do our thing. It may not be the flashiest thing at times, but I do other things well. I chip and putt well. I’m driving the ball well. Everybody has got a little bit different game, and that’s the way I look at mine. Do the things that we know how to do the best.”

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