Stricker savoring lead at Deutsche Bank

Steve Stricker watches a tee shot during Round 1 of the 2009 Deutsche Bank Championship In Norton, Massachusetts on September 4, 2009.

Steve Stricker watches a tee shot during Round 1 of the 2009 Deutsche Bank Championship In Norton, Massachusetts on September 4, 2009.

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NORTON, Mass. — Butter, garlic, shallots, and maybe some chives are mandatory for spice. Cognac adds punch, ricotta provides consistency and then there’s the prime ingredient.

Lobster meat.

Mix, toss, then bake and you have a recipe for delectable flavor. Oh, and for brilliant sub-par rounds, too.

That’s right, for the ailing golf game there’s lobster ravioli.

(It’s OK, folks, to smack your lips.)

And to think, all along you were thinking you needed one of those swing aids that is constantly being advertised. Or you needed to listen to the screaming Michael Breed on The Golf Channel. (Please, oh please, tone him down.) Or you were hoping for Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter, or Hank Haney to come knocking on your door.

Forget about it. Instead, put in a call to Emeril. Better yet, since we’re here in the Boston area, get Todd English on the horn. Or at least Martha Stewart up in Maine.

With apologies to the late, great Ben Hogan, the answer isn’t in the dirt. It’s in the kitchen.

Don’t believe me? Then how do you explain the fact that Steve Stricker and Scott Verplank were together for dinner Thursday night, chose the same meal, and came out Friday morning to combine for 15 birdies and going 14-under as a collective?

If you want to credit their brilliant putting (25 for Stricker, 28 for Verplank) or crisp ball-striking (they missed just six greens and six fairways between them), then go ahead. Given the choice of the practice range or Two Forty Two on Federal Hill in Providence – their restaurant of choice – well, what time is dinner?

“It was terrific,” Stricker said, not long after a bogey-free round of 8-under 63 put him into a share of the lead at the Deutsche Bank Championship. “I had a great meal.”

You would think Verplank had to have felt similarly, but not quite. Seems he was queasy the rest of the night, couldn’t get much sleep, and “I wasn’t that excited driving out (to the golf course) this morning.”

An eagle and three birdies did what aspirin couldn’t have done, though it was a birdie-birdie finish that did the most to put a smile on Verplank’s face. It meant he could head back to the hotel for an afternoon nap.

“I mean, I was bad last night,” Verplank said. “Hopefully I’m going to feel better.”

Surely it couldn’t have been the lobster ravioli? We’re talking one of the true flavors of summer dining up here. Next thing you know he’ll be blaming clam chowder or Boston baked beans.

“You would think (it) would have been really good up here, right next to where all the lobsters live,” Verplank said. “But it didn’t work for me.”

It did for Stricker and he laughed at the notion that it could have been the food. “I think it was a little bit of a bug going around,” Stricker said. Then he paused, laughed, and suggested that it was something else.

“I’m pretty sure it’s playoff pressure.”

Or, could it be something else? Perhaps anxiety, because Verplank’s team, Oklahoma State, opens its football season Saturday against Georgia. The brutal part of that is, the game will be played while Verplank is on the golf course.

Thank goodness for those apps that will afford him a cell-phone update he can check. But back to the culinary part of the program . . .

With many players opting for rooms in the Providence area, which is an easier commute to TPC Boston than Boston, the dining possibilities are rich. No problem there, especially if Italian is your choice, and Verplank was pretty sure that he and Stricker were going to head out again.

“But I’m going to eat something a lot more bland,” he said.

He’s hoping, of course, that his play in Round 2 doesn’t match the meal.

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