Janesville27.1°

Edgerton native sets sights on third straight John Deere Classic title

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Gary D’Amato
July 6, 2011
— Since World War II, only seven golfers have won the same PGA Tour event in three or more consecutive years.

You might recognize the names:


Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gene Littler, Billy Casper, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods.


Steve Stricker, an Edgerton native who lives in Madison, has a chance to join that august list of Hall of Famers at the John Deere Classic this week.


Stricker won the tournament in 2009 and repeated last year with a record-shattering performance at TPC Deere Run. Leading up to the 2011 John Deere Classic, which begins Thursday, billboards in the Quad Cities featured Stricker’s likeness and the words “A Shot at History.”


Only 15 golfers have “three-peated.” Four have won the same tournament four straight times. No golfer has ever won the same event five consecutive years.


“It’s difficult to repeat,” Stricker said, “let alone put three of them together.”


A golfer must be on top of his game, get a few breaks and have a great week with the putter in order to win a Tour event. To do it in the same event three years in a row is the rarest of feats.


“It’s just hard to do,” Stricker said. “There are a ton of good players. Somebody can get hot and go low, and you may not have a chance to win even if you do play well.


“A lot of things have to fall into place to win once, let alone two or three times in a row.”


Only Woods has three-peated since 1980, though he’s done it in six different tournaments (including the Bay Hill Invitational and Buick Invitational, both of which he won four consecutive years).


Given Stricker’s track record at TPC Deere Run, however, his chances to win a third consecutive John Deere Classic title can’t be easily dismissed.


Over his last eight rounds at the D.A. Weibring-designed, par-71 course, Stricker is a staggering 46 under par. His scoring average over that span is a blistering 65.25.


“I’ve had some really good things happen here,” he said. “I really enjoy the course. It’s a course where there’s some risk and reward. There are some par-5s you can get to. There’s a bunch of good par-3s, and there are some short par-4s you can make birdie on.


“If you drive the ball well, you can give yourself some opportunities.”


Last year, Paul Goydos shot a 59 in the first round to tie the lowest score ever shot on the PGA Tour. He didn’t have much breathing room, however, because Stricker came in a little later with a 60.


It was the first time in Tour history that golfers shot 59 and 60 on the same day.


“It had to feel weird for him, shooting 59 and only leading by one,” Stricker said. “For me, I’m like, ‘I’m right back in it.’ For him it had to be, ‘Holy cow, I shot a 59, and I’ve only got a one-stroke lead.’


“I would think it would have had to have been harder for him to swallow than it was for me to shoot 60 and be trailing.”


Stricker added a 66 in the second round and a 62 in the third. He birdied half the holes (27) in his first three rounds and set the Tour’s 54-hole record with a 25-under 188 total.


Stricker took a six-shot lead into the final round, shot a 70 and beat Goydos by two strokes. His 26-under 258 total included 31 birdies, which tied him for second place for most birdies in a 72-hole tournament.


“I obviously enjoy the course,” he said. “I have some very good feelings going around here.”


Stricker won the Memorial Tournament last month for his 10th career victory. He hasn’t played since the U.S. Open, so he’ll be fresh for his John Deere defense. He is one of a couple dozen golfers who will hop on a chartered plane after the final putt drops Sunday and fly to England for the British Open at Royal St. George’s.


Also in the John Deere field are U.S. Open runner-up Jason Day, defending British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink, Davis Love III, John Daly and Wisconsin golfers Jerry Kelly, Mark Wilson and J.P. Hayes.


Wilson is a two-time winner this year, and Hayes won the John Deere Classic in 2002.


“It’s going to be fun,” Stricker said. “I’ve got some good feelings around here, and hopefully I can have another chance.”



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