Steve Stricker has a chance to join fabled quartet in golf history
SILVIS, Ill. – Standing off the back right of the 18th green at TPC Deere Run, Steve Stricker cocked his head and wondered if the hole location was exactly as it was a year ago.
Assured it was, the 11th-ranked player in the world looked a little longer, and made his mind up that while it was close, it wasn't exactly the same. Close, but not quite. Golfers are like elephants in that regard. They can hit a golf ball to an exact yardage with their eyes closed, and can almost always remember a hole location or a distance on a putt – especially one that sets up history.
Last July, Stricker rolled in a putt from the back fringe to claim his third consecutive John Deere Classic victory, setting up an opportunity for a "Stricker Slam" the week of July 9-15 along the border of Illinois and Iowa. Only four other players in the game's history have won four consecutive PGA Tour events.
The putt, and ensuing emotional celebration, created a moment that transcended the game – something that is very hard to do when players routinely make the impossible a reality. Stricker said he is constantly reminded of the putt, and the bunker shot that set it up, by his peers.
"Probably on a weekly basis," he said. "I just heard it again last week from one of my playing partners. It was Pat Perez, who's like how did you do that, how did you get it on the green, how did you make the putt? So I hear that quite a bit. It's a special time in my career for doing something like that, to kind of come through and do something in the clutch when you have to. That's something, that shot, I'll remember forever."
Should he win the John Deere Classic again this July, the putt will hold even greater weight, and become part of golf history.
The air about the winners of four consecutive events is truly rarefied: Young Tom Morris did it first, winning the British Open in 1868-70 and again in 1872 after there was no event in 1871. Walter Hagen then won four straight PGA Championships from 1924-27, setting up Gene Sarazen's run of four straight Miami Opens from 1927-1930. No one did it again until Tiger Woods won the Bay Hill Invitational from 2000-03. Woods then did it again at the Buick Invitational from 2005-08.
"Well, it's a unique opportunity," Stricker said. "It's hard to do. It's hard to repeat, let alone win for the third time, I guess. But I've had some special moments here. I look forward to trying. It's going to be difficult as ever, believe me. Just to win a golf tournament is hard, let alone four times in a row. But I'm excited about the challenge, excited about the opportunity to try to do it. It would be a lot of fun.
"The anticipation for me obviously is there already. I think about it – I thought about it at the beginning of the year. "
Stricker started the 2012 campaign with a victory at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in January and then carded two more top 10s in his next three events. But in his last five events, he has just one top 10 – at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
That is not necessarily an indicator of whether or not he'll play well at a place he considers home, however. He has come in playing very well – as he did in 2009 and 2011 – or poorly, as he did in 2010. There is comfort level at the tournament for the Madison resident, who gains support not only from a Wisconsin fan base that travels down, but from the Illinois contingent as well as a University of Illinois alumnus.
"A lot of great things have happened to me here," he said. I'm excited to come back. I look forward to it. It's a special place for me."
He paused, and smiled a little.
"I'm a deer hunter. To get a trophy with a deer on there, that's pretty cool. Maybe that's karma for me. But it's a special place for me here."
Post a comment / write a review.
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.