Stricker: A special’ week
With a five birdie-five bogey final round of 72, Stricker finished tied for 18th at 4 under par—his third career top 20 in the season’s final major. He locked up an automatic spot onto his fourth consecutive U.S. international team, earning a berth in the Ryder Cup to be contested in Wales in October.
Under the circumstances, with the pressure of playing in front of his home-state crowds, it was a pretty good week for the Edgerton native.
“I thought I handled everything very well,” he said. “My nerves were under control. I played actually tee to green pretty good for two weeks in a row, and I got really nothing out of my rounds with a putter.
“Today was a little bit better, but it was disappointing that I didn’t putt the way I normally putt, because I could have really been right in there the way I hit the ball.”
It will be five years before the PGA returns to Whistling Straits in 2015. Two years later, the U.S. Open will come to Wisconsin at Erin Hills, a daily fee course just 37 miles outside of Milwaukee. Stricker will be 48 and 50 when those majors roll into his home state, but he would certainly like to get another crack at it.
“Hopefully, I’m still playing by then,” he said. “And yeah, it would be great to come back and play again in another major here.
“Like I say, it was a pretty special week. The support that I got was unbelievable, and it was tiring, you know. It takes a lot out of you. But all in all, it was very fun.”
Stricker’s immediate future is much more promising. In two weeks, he undertakes his fourth run in the PGA Tour’s playoffs, and he seems assured of starting the four-event series in second place behind Ernie Els. Last year, he finished third behind Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the quest for the $10 million prize.
“It’s really wide open,” he said of the playoffs, with Woods deep down the points list. “That is all dependent on how you play those last four events, and you need to be in the top five going into that last event to control your own destiny.
“So yeah, I feel like my game’s good. If I can iron out this putter a little bit, I should be good to go.
“So it’s an exciting time of the year. We got a lot of big tournaments left, a lot of things riding for the last few events and especially the Ryder Cup the last one of the year, so (I’m) looking forward to it all.”
Stricker said he likes the makeup of the Ryder Cup team so far, with a mix of veterans and some young talent. But he hopes he’ll get the chance to team up with Woods again in a pairing that went 4-0 in last year’s Presidents Cup. Woods will need to be one of Corey Pavin’s captain’s picks on Sept. 7.
“I would love to play with him again,” Stricker said of Woods. “We talked about it earlier this year, back in May. The reason it works, I think we get along with one another very well. I think we complement each other’s games nicely.”
Some of the young talent that will be on display in the Ryder Cup was in the thick of the hunt in the final round at Whistling Straits. That didn’t come as a surprise to Stricker on the 7.500-yard course along the shores of Lake Michigan.
“I may be asking them for advice after they pull one of these off,” he said. “A lot of those players up there hit it a long way. And that’s a key to this game nowadays. You got to hit it a long ways.
“And I played with Rory McIlroy the first couple days and Adam Scott, and they bomb it. And that’s what you need to do.
“This course is meant for length. Just look at the last hole. You’ve got to hit it about 300 into the wind just to be able to get it home. So it’s a game of length, and all those guys up there hit it a long way and they’re great players.”
Before he left to make the short commute home to Madison, Stricker was asked for a highlight of his week.
“Probably that standing ovation on 18, walking up and feeling the support of everybody and knowing how much they care,” he said. “And same with me, you know.
“I’m proud to be from here, and it was a blast this week. It really was. But I’m glad it’s over, too.”