Stricker playing in pain

KAPALUA – Steve Stricker, at 45, is the oldest player in this year’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions field.

Plus, he’s experiencing what he calls a “shooting pain” down his left leg whenever he leans toward that side.

Nevertheless, after the first two rounds at the Kapalua Plantation Course on Monday, only one player had a better score.

“It was a long day but a good day,” the defending champion said. “I made some nice shots. Hit some poor ones and got away with them. But made some good up-and-downs, just kept the round going.”

Stricker, at 8-under-par 138 after rounds of 71 and 67, actually thinks the injury helped his game.

“My tempo was good because I can’t swing at it very hard and that’s a blessing in this wind,” he said. “So you hit a lot of crisp shots underneath the wind.”

Stricker said he was hurt late last year and still hasn’t undergone an MRI examination.

The 12-time PGA Tour winner had had a noticeable limp, and had to stretch out on the ground throughout the day.

“I told one of the rules officials that I didn’t know if I was going to be able to make it all the way around,” he said.

Fortunately for him, the injury didn’t get worse as the day went on.

“It felt as (bad) on the first hole as the last hole,” Stricker said with a laugh.

He added that walking uphill was fine, but walking downhill “felt rotten.”

Playing partner Brandt Snedeker, who is tied for fourth, got an up-close-and-personal look at the discomfort Stricker was dealing with.

“It’s tough to watch him because I know he’s in pain,” Snedeker said. “Of all days to go 36, not feeling good on this golf course in this wind, it would be a worst-case scenario, but he played great.”

Stricker chipped in for eagle from 63 yards on his last hole, and was three three shots behind Dustin Johnson entering today’s final 18.

“Yeah, I think I’ll be able to play tomorrow,” Stricker said. “What am I, in second place? I’ll go out there and give it a whack, give it a try. Yeah, who knows what can happen. Maybe I’ll feel great tomorrow, too. So I’ll get some rest tonight and hopefully I’ll feel a little bit better tomorrow.”

* Kyle Sakamoto is at