Putter lets Stricker down in first round
“If you leave it short constantly, you have an uphill putt, but it’s into the grain,” Stricker said. “It’s tough to keep the ball on the surface with the bumps. If you have a downhill putt, you’re down grain, but it’s still downhill.”
Stricker shot a 2-over-par 74 in the opening round of the 91st PGA Championship on Thursday at Hazeltine National Golf Club. He is tied for 69th, seven shots behind leader Tiger Woods, but only four shots away from the top eight.
“I have some work to do,” he said. “I would have liked to shoot even par, and I had some chances the last four, five holes, but I couldn’t get it done.”
Stricker hit 10 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens, but 34 putts kept his score from being better.
“I drove the ball well, but I couldn’t get it close,” he said. “It was tougher in the afternoon. It played a little firm at times, and it played a little soft at times. You didn’t know what you were going to get.”
PGA officials set up the course at 7,360 yards, about 300 yards shorter than maximum, but the pins were put in positions similar to those of the final round of the 2002 PGA. Only one of the par 5s measured more than 600 yards, that being the 636-yard third hole.
Weather wasn’t a factor, with clouds hiding the sun and a breeze limiting the effect of the humidity. A light rain fell for about a half-hour.
“(The course) played very reasonable today,” Stricker said.
Stricker, who played with Ernie Els and Ian Poulter, had a large following, with a lot of “Go Steve” and “Win one for Wisconsin” cheers coming from the crowd.
But the players couldn’t build off that energy, with Poulter finishing at 72 with three birdies and Els shooting 75 with one birdie.
Stricker had to make some four- to six-foot par putts to get his round started. He bogeyed the fifth hole and didn’t have a good birdie chance until the par-5 seventh, but he couldn’t pitch the ball close from the fringe and missed an eight-footer.
“I didn’t make a birdie,” he said. “You think you’ll luck one in at some point, but I never did.”
After bogeying No. 10 from the trees, Stricker wedged his third shot to four feet on the par-5 11th, but he missed that putt. He made his only sand save in three tries on the par-3 13th, but that didn’t produce any rally.
At the 586-yard par-5 15th, his second shot got within 50 yards of the green and he pitched to about five feet, but again the ball rolled past the edge of the cup.
Other than that, he was putting from 30 feet for most of the day.
“I never made any putts to get some momentum,” he said. “Hopefully, I can tomorrow.”
Stricker’s second round is scheduled to begin at 8:15 a.m. today on No. 10.
He feels like the smoother greens of the morning round will give him a boost.
“It’s always tougher in the afternoon, no matter where you are,” he said. “Hopefully, you don’t hurt yourself the first day. I don’t know if I did.
“I just have to forget about today and got get ’em tomorrow.”