Stricker says reduced PGA schedule doesn't mean he has his feet up

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staff, Gazette
Wednesday, June 12, 2013

— Now that Steve Stricker is playing a limited schedule, he says his time is more valuable than ever.

"I'm busier now than I ever have been for some reason," Stricker said Tuesday during a news conference at Merion Golf Club, site of this week's U.S. Open. "I don't know what it is. I guess kids. People know that I'm playing less, so they're asking me for things and to do things. I'm staying extremely busy."

Stricker, 46, announced at the beginning of the PGA Tour season that he was cutting back his schedule and would only play majors and a handful of other events. But, he said, don't question his desire to win.

Especially when it comes to his first major championship.

"I'm kind of past that. The decision I made earlier this year to play less has taken some of the pressure off me," the Edgerton native said of his record in major championships. "I'm completely fine with my career. I still want to win, I still want to play well. But I'm enjoying it. Not really having any expectations at all has kind of taken the pressure off."

Even for a part-time golfer, Stricker has amassed a record most would envy so far this year. He has posted a pair of runner-up finishes, and he reached the quarterfinals of the WGC Accenture Match Play event.

Stricker tied for 20th at the Masters and tied for 37th at The Players Championship, his most recent event.

Now he comes to his 18th U.S. Open at Merion, site of some of golf's most famous moments. It's where Bobby Jones completed his Grand Slam in 1930, and Ben Hogan struck his legendary 1-iron shot there on the final hole to force a playoff, which he won in 1950.

Stricker would like to make a little history himself. His best finish in the U.S. Open is fifth, and he's done that twice. And, unlike many of his peers, Stricker actually has some experience at Merion.

He played in the 1989 U.S. Amateur at the famed course. Only a handful of golfers this week have any competitive experience at Merion.

"Don't remember much about it from that long ago," Stricker said. "But I remember at least that it was a great old course with a lot of history to it that I enjoyed playing back in '89 and no different than today. It's a great test."

The wet conditions could help Stricker win his first major. The course plays under 7,000 yards long and is typical of U.S. Open venues that place a premium on accuracy.

"You need to be patient, keep it in play, par it to death and hopefully make a couple birdies in there somewhere," Stricker said. "I like the setup. I enjoy it. There's a lot of short irons, sometimes, when you get into certain parts of the course, but there are also a lot of long clubs into some of these holes.

"So I think that still the advantage kind of goes to some longer hitters here just because we're not getting any roll in the fairway at all."

Regardless of this week's outcome, Stricker will return home to Madison and keep busy with his children when he isn't playing in a tournament or two.

"They take up time, and it's fun to be around them and taking parts in their lives and doing some different things," he said. "It's been a lot of fun. I'm enjoying it and, yeah, I wouldn't change it right now. I really enjoy what I'm doing."

Last updated: 7:54 am Monday, July 29, 2013

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