LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Steve Stricker will play in what he calls the "Super Bowl" of the PGA Tour season instead of hunting for elk in Colorado.
Stricker said Wednesday he has canceled his hunting trip to play in the Tour Championship, for reasons that go beyond a shot at winning the FedEx Cup and its $10 million prize. He never thought he'd have a chance at the FedEx Cup when he announced his reduced schedule this year, and he thinks it would be wrong for him to shun the 30-man field at East Lake next year.
"It's our marquee event. It's the Super Bowl of our year," Stricker said.
Stricker said at the start of the season that he was going to play a reduced schedule of about 10 to 12 tournaments. He collected his third runner-up finish at the Deutsche Bank Championship, pushing him to No. 8 in the FedEx Cup standings. It also was enough for him to play his way onto the Presidents Cup team for the Oct. 3-6 matches.
The decision to play East Lake means Stricker will play 13 events this year, still not a full schedule. Even though he had planned the elk hunting trip all year, a talk with his wife on the way home from the TPC Boston changed his mind.
"I had a good talk with Nicki on the way home right after Boston and thought it was pretty important for me to go and play and not go hunting," he said. "Even though I'd rather go hunting, I think it's pretty important, being in the position I'm in. I still have the opportunity to win. I didn't think I'd be in this position starting the year with the limited playing schedule. Yeah, looking forward to next week."
Stricker also figured that pulling out of East Lake would mean the 30th player would have to play alone the first two rounds. And part of him thought it would be disrespectful to take off a tournament where so many players strive to be.
"For me to just shun that and walk away from that I think would have been wrong," he said.
As for the hunting trip with his buddies?
"I'm catching a lot of grief," he said. "They were actually rooting against me in Boston, if you can believe it. No, it's all in good fun. I told them going into the playoffs, `Something really strange is going to have to happen for me not to go on this hunting trip.'"
Like finishing second in Boston? That's not strange. Stricker has 11 top 10s in the FedEx Cup playoffs, tied with Jim Furyk for the most since it began in 2007.
ADJUSTING GOALS: Jordan Spieth keeps raising his own bar.
The 20-year-old Texan began the season with a primary goal of getting into the Web.com Tour Finals, a four-tournament series with the top 75 from the Web.com money list and the players from No. 126 to 200 in the FedEx Cup starting from scratch. The top 25 in that special money list not already eligible would get PGA Tour cards.
That changed when Spieth was runner-up in the Puerto Rico Open and tied for seventh in the Tampa Bay Championship to earn special temporary membership on the PGA Tour, giving him unlimited exemptions.
Then, his goal was to earn enough money – equal to No. 125 on the PGA Tour list – to earn a full card for 2013-14. He accomplished that with a tie for ninth at Hilton Head. But he still couldn't be part of the FedEx Cup without being a full member this year, and there was only one way to do that.
"I kind of sat back and said, `You know what? We can win. We can win this year,'" he said.
And he did just that at the John Deere Classic.
Next, the bar was raised to the Tour Championship, which was no longer a long shot when he lost in a playoff at the Wyndham Championship to start the FedEx Cup at No. 8.
"And then from there, I guess the Presidents Cup came onto my mind, and that was the most significant goal that was on my mind the whole year," he said.
Spieth tied for fourth at the Deutsche Bank with a closing 62, enough for Fred Couples to make him a captain's pick.
Well, there is that $10 million prize for winning the FedEx Cup. And that's not out of reach.
MOVING UP: Most amazing to Steve Stricker about the rookie year of Jordan Spieth is that the Texan started the year with no status and ends it in the Presidents Cup.
"Has anybody ever come out on their rookie year and made any team?" Stricker asked.
A rookie? Yes.
Rickie Fowler in 2010 became the first PGA Tour rookie to make the Ryder Cup team. Fowler, however, had made it through Q-school the year before and had a full season of status on tour.
Tiger Woods didn't make the 1996 Presidents Cup team, even though he won twice and reached the Tour Championship. That was when the Tour Championship was held in the fall. In fact, the Presidents Cup was played the same week that Woods first had a chance to win, holding the 54-hole lead at the Quad City Classic. Most of the national golf writers left the Presidents Cup and flew to Illinois to watch Woods try to win. He closed with a 72 and tied for fifth.
Stricker had only past champion status in 2006 and played so well that Tom Lehman considered – but did not take him – as a Ryder Cup pick.
DIVOTS: Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy will be playing an 18-hole exhibition at Mission Hills in China on Oct. 28, the Monday before the HSBC Champions in Shanghai. ... Phil Mickelson opted out of the pro-am at the BMW Championship because of personal reasons. He was not expected to arrive until Wednesday evening. ... The last time the BMW Championship (previously Western Open) was in the Chicago area and held somewhere other than Cog Hill was in 1990 at Butler National, which fell off the schedule because it has no female members.