Steve Stricker made it clear that money was not important.
His plan was to defend his title at Kapalua and walk away from the PGA Tour for the rest of the year. Over the holidays leading into 2013, he reached a compromise and cut his schedule roughly in half. He contacted his sponsors, and they supported him.
Stricker didn’t have great expectations starting his year of semi-retirement.
“If I could just make enough money to pay yearly expenses, I’m fine with that,” he said. “If we don’t have to touch anything I’ve put away … I don’t need to do what I’m doing just to make money. I’d rather be staying at home, doing things at home with the foundation and with my kids.”
No one else was around during this conversation, but Stricker still leaned in and lowered his voice as he stated what everyone already knew.
“You know, we’re pretty conservative with our money,” he said.
Stricker was runner-up that week at Kapalua and made $665,000. He didn’t play for six weeks, and then reached the quarterfinals of the Accenture Match Play Championship to earn $275,000. Two weeks later, he was runner-up at Doral and brought in $880,000.
That should pay the bills.
He finished the year with just over $4.4 million, the third-highest total of his career. His world ranking improved 10 spots to No. 8. And by the end of the year, he had several players contemplating a similar schedule.
Along the way, there were plenty of other moments that showed more about players than just their birdies and bogeys, and the checks they cash.
Rory McIlroy generated a buzz no matter where he went at the start of the year. He had the hefty deal from Nike. He was No. 1 in the world. And he was struggling early with a missed cut in Abu Dhabi and a first-round departure in Match Play. Nothing caused a stir like Friday at the Honda Classic, when he abruptly shook hands with Ernie Els as they were making the turn and walked straight to the parking lot.
Information was a trickle. He was vague during a brisk walk to the car. Later, a statement from his management company said he had a sore wisdom tooth.
There was a golf tournament still going on. Michael Thompson shot 65 on that Friday to move to the top of the leaderboard. It was early afternoon and no one seemed interested. The announcement sounded more like a plea. “We have Michael Thompson in the interview room,” the official said.
One voice broke the awkward silence. “Is he a dentist?” a reported asked.