‘It wasn’t a pretty sight’: Steve Stricker details scary medical episode that nearly claimed his life

Not long after captaining the Team USA to a Ryder Cup victory, Steve Stricker battled a mysterious illness that nearly claimed his life.

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It started with a sore throat.

Steve Stricker, fresh off a successful Ryder Cup captaincy last fall, felt the ailment come on one day as he went about his life in Wisconsin. With Covid still prevalent across the world, he sought out a test to pinpoint the cause of the symptoms. A negative result was good news, but the symptoms did not go away.

Two weeks later, Stricker developed a fever.

“[I] felt awful,” Stricker said in an interview with the Champions Tour. “Started having these 103-degree temperatures; feeling crappy.”

When the illness persisted, Stricker checked into UW Health University Hospital. Tests revealed a high white blood cell count and low liver count. But still, the doctors could not pinpoint the cause of his ailment.

“It was going downhill, and we didn’t know why,” Stricker said. “My liver was in trouble. I turned yellow. I had jaundice. My lips puffed up, my tongue puffed up. My face was like an allergic reaction.”

His fever slowly began to improve not long after, but then a fit of coughs caused even more issues.

“It sent my heart out of rhythm,” he said. “[My heart rate] jumped up to 155, 160 and it was sustained at that number. That’s when I really started to get a little bit nervous.

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“There was an inflammation — either myocarditis or pericarditis — around the heart that led to this flutter is what they call it,” he continued. “That was the scary part. You’re always wondering if that’s gonna get better.”

For days, Stricker remained in the hospital, sapped of energy as he fought the mysterious ailment. He did not eat for two weeks, losing 25 pounds in the process, and most days did not have enough strength to walk more than a few steps.

Finally, after weeks in the hospital, Stricker began to improve. He was eventually discharged from the hospital and was healthy enough by Christmas to spend the holiday with his family. He remained on medication to manage his heart rate and observed a liquid-only diet in the weeks after discharge, but he’s not had any serious health relapses since.

Now, the 12-time PGA Tour winner is focused on getting healthy enough to return to professional golf.

“Just a roller coaster of a ride in this golf game,” Stricker said. “I’ve been on that roller coaster, and now I feel like I’m trying to work my way back up again … I’m excited to see what this next chapter will bring.”

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF.com, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf.