Stricker trickles out of contention
Stricker shot a 2-over-par 72 to fall nine shots back of Ricky Barnes through 54 holes in the 109th U.S. Open at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course.
He then had two more bogeys during his first six holes of the fourth round to fall to 3-over par for the tournament, 10 shots behind co-leaders Ricky Barnes and Lucas Glover.
Stricker, 42, trying to win his first major, began resumption of his third round at 1-under par, seven shots shy of Barnes at 8-under. The Edgerton native then lost ground when a bogey on the third hole and a double bogey on the 12th dropped him to 2 over.
With his only birdie coming at the par-5 14th, Stricker took a positive step forward but remained well back of Barnes. Stricker began his final round at 5:33 p.m. (CDT) and will finish his final 12 holes today.
“Tired,” Stricker said of how he felt. “I worked hard today. To shoot that, I couldn’t get anything going.”
The biggest problem for Stricker came off the tee. By hitting only 43 percent of the fairways, Stricker continually put pressure on his irons and putter. He also suffered his first three-putt green of the week.
“I was always on the edge of the bunker, edge of the rough, but I hung in there,” Stricker said. “You never know what can happen. I’m going to have to shoot a 64 probably (to get into contention).”
In the history of the U.S. Open, the largest final-round deficit overcome was seven shots in 1960 at Cherry Hills when Arnold Palmer caught Mike Souchak. Of all four majors, the largest deficit has been 10 shots at the 1999 British Open, when Scotland’s Paul Lawrie caught Jean Van de Velde of France and won in a playoff.
For Stricker to shoot low enough to catch Barnes, he will have to abandon his philosophy of hitting the middle of the greens and hoping to make a 20-footer. He will have to go flag hunting, which can either produce a very good score or a wreak havoc.
“My short game’s good,” said Stricker, analyzing the positive aspects of his game. “So I guess I shouldn’t be worried about missing a green and just try to get it up-and-down if I do miss it.
“But I’ve got to get (the ball) in the fairway. You can’t be aggressive if you’re hitting it out of the rough.”
On top of trying to shoot a low score, Stricker will have to deal with a changing Black Course that is drying out, thus creating the issue of mud balls.
“The greens are not as smooth as they have been probably because you’re getting a little traffic out there,” Stricker said. “I hit a 3-iron today that felt like a pretty good swing, and it kind of knuckled to the right. So you’ve got water, you’ve got mud, and it’s tough to control the ball.”