Not being on center stage doesn’t matter to Stricker

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Scott Michaux
Thursday, July 14, 2011
— For the second consecutive major, Steve Stricker is the highest ranked American golfer in the world and coming off a victory in his previous start.

And for the second straight major, Stricker has not been invited to the interview room before the tournament.

Some stars’ egos might get bruised by such a slight. Stricker could not care less.

“I don’t mind that at all,” the Edgerton native said to the three reporters who made the effort to speak to him Wednesday after his second practice round for the British Open at Royal St. George’s. “I was surprised to see you guys.”

Unlike his under-the-radar appearance at last month’s U.S. Open after winning his 10th PGA Tour event two weeks earlier at the Memorial, Stricker is making a habit of showing up tardy at the British Open after depositing another big check into his bank account.

For the third straight year, Stricker arrived in the UK on the charter flight from Silva, Ill., after winning the John Deere Classic. However, the jolt of confidence and form hasn’t translated into success in the world’s oldest golf tournament.

Stricker finished 55th and 52nd in his last two British Open starts after finishing eighth and seventh in challenges of links golf.

“It’s a nice routine to be in, I guess,” he said. “I looked at those two years prior when I got over here early and top-10’d them before going to John Deere.

“I’m very happy that I’ve gone to John Deere, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve seen that I’ve finished in the 50s the last couple of years (here). So, looking at that, I’m hoping to change it.”

The TPC at Deere Run and Royal St. George’s couldn’t be further extremes. The last time the British Open was staged on the Sandwich links, only one player finished under par. Stricker was more under in his last two holes Sunday to squeak past Kyle Stanley at 22-under for his 11th career win.

Then he got to spend about an hour celebrating before climbing on board the charter for England, where he would have to recover from jet lag and get only two practice rounds to prepare for one of the quirkiest golf courses in the world.

“It’s a quick turnaround,” Stricker said after finishing up nine holes Wednesday with fellow Wisconsin player Mark Wilson and Jerry Kelly. “Trying to adapt and learn this style in 2 1/2 days is a challenge, but I’m excited to be here. We’ll see what happens.

“It’s totally different (here). You have to realize the wind moves the ball a lot more than it does in the States. With the firmer conditions, the ball goes a lot further.

“You try to get as much as you can out there. You hit a bunch of chips, but it’s hard to replicate what’s going to happen in the tournament. It’s a tough change in three days.”

Stricker will be back at it for real at 8:10 a.m. (CDT) today and 3:09 a.m. (CDT) on Friday. He is paired from England’s Lee Westwood and South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel in the tournament’s first two rounds.

Stricker didn’t play in the 2003 British Open at St. George’s during the first of his slump years. But upon returning to the Open stage in 2007 at Carnoustie, he contended immediately and was paired with Sergio Garcia in the final group on Sunday.

The back-to-back top 10s at the toughest links (Carnoustie) and under some of the toughest conditions (Royal Birkdale) prove that Stricker’s game translates over here.

“You can look back at them and say you can play here,” he said. “I enjoy coming over here to play. It’s where you want to be. It’s a tremendous challenge. It really is.

“It’s so much different from what we typically play. We have to come over here and learn it in a short period of time. It’s a fun challenge. It’s different, but it’s fun.

“ I think everybody is in the same boat here. They all feel a little uneasy.”

Even if things don’t change with Stricker’s results this week, he has no regrets about being loyal to the John Deere. He only wishes he could savor the moment more with so many supporters just three hours from his home.

“I talked to my wife about this,” he said. “It’s hard to enjoy the John Deere wins because I’m hopping on a plane right away. I get to talk with them for maybe an hour after the tournament, and then I’m gone.”

Gone to relative anonymity unbecoming of the No. 5 player in the world and the only golfer with multiple wins on the PGA Tour the last three consecutive seasons.

Not that Stricker is complaining.

“That’s good,” he said with a smile.

Last updated: 5:54 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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