Stricker is 10 shots behind at U.S. Open

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Ron Green Jr.
Friday, June 17, 2011
— Maybe the best thing about Steve Stricker's opening-round 75 in the U.S. Open is that he finished moments before the late-afternoon rain settled in at Congressional Country Club.

It was that kind of Thursday for the top-ranked American golfer.

"I'm pretty disappointed," Stricker said. "(It was) kind of a sloppy round, a lot of mistakes, really. When I did make a birdie, I gave it right back on the next hole.

"I really had no momentum at all. It was a struggle all day. But a long ways to go. The bottom line is, I've got to play well (today)."

Stricker finds himself 10 strokes behind first-round leader Rory McIlroy, who played in the threesome behind Stricker, David Toms and Retief Goosen. It's hardly the start the Edgerton native envisioned.

It's not necessarily crippling, but it will require Stricker to take advantage of a Congressional layout that may be vulnerable to low scores this morning, given the rain that softened greens that are lacking the traditional U.S. Open fire.

It was the third time in five years Stricker has started an Open by shooting 75. He did it last year when he finished tied for 58th at Pebble Beach, and he did it at Oakmont in 2007, where he rallied to finish tied for 13th.

Sorting through what happened Thursday in his 4-over-par round, Stricker didn't find a specific issue with his game but more of a general dullness.

"It was a little bit of everything," he said. "Missed some putts. Three-putted once. Missed a birdie early on at 11. And then I only hit eight of 14 fairways.

"That's tough to do around here. You find yourself struggling to get it on the green after that. A couple bad iron shots. It was more than just one thing."

Stricker started well, ripping a 3-iron over the flag on the water-guarded 218-yard, par-3 10th hole, only to make a bogey. He missed a good birdie opportunity at the 494-yard, par-4 11th, and then things got wobbly.

"I started pretty well and felt comfortable. Then slowly, I just kind of lost anything I had going, which wasn't much," Stricker said.

Stricker hit 12 greens but never found his rhythm on Congressional's greens. Considered one of the game's best putters, Stricker found himself increasingly frustrated by the putting surfaces.

"They looked fast, and some were fast. You get above (the hole), and you end up dying it," Stricker said.

"It was hard putting it at times. You're dying it and watching it wiggle all over going down to the hole. But that wasn't the cause of my problems."

Stricker played his first nine holes at 2 over par, then made three bogeys in a four-hole stretch starting at No. 2 (his 11th hole). Needing to generate some positive momentum, Strickerólike many playersówas unable to do it. It left him in the difficult position of trying to gain ground on a course set up to punish players who get overly aggressive.

"You still have to be patient," Stricker said. "You can't start doing stupid things because it will catch up to you in a hurry. Still you have to be patient, pick your spots and try to make birdies where you can."

Last updated: 5:38 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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