News & ToursJune 2, 2015

Why Steve Stricker might be playing a LOT of golf in the next week

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Steve Stricker remembers well the first time he tried to qualify for the U.S. Open.

"I know where I was going … I had to be … no, I don't exactly. I couldn't tell you," Stricker said Tuesday, drawing laughs. "I had to be in high school, I would have thought. Do you know for sure? Can you provide me any help?"

Sorry, we can't. But Stricker knows when his next qualifying start could be: Monday here at two Columbus-area golf courses.

Related: What it's like to try to qualify for a U.S. Open

Aside from voluntarily skipping the British Open the last two years, Stricker hasn't missed a major championship since 2006, also at the British Open. The run could end, however, with the 115th U.S. Open in two weeks at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., though he has two chances to yet break into the 156-player field.

A victory at this week's 40th Memorial Tournament would likely provide enough world ranking points to lift him from his current 94th place into the top 60, which would earn him an automatic berth. Failing that, he'll compete in Monday's 36-hole sectional qualifier at The Lakes CC and Brookside G&CC, usually one of the largest and toughest of the 11 sectionals because it draws so many competitors from the Memorial.

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Stricker last attempted to qualify in 2006, and he earned one of two available spots for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot GC in Mamaroneck, N.Y. Medalist at St. Charles (Ill.) CC after shooting 65-64-129, Stricker went on to finish T-6 at Winged Foot after leading through 36 holes.

Still recovering from back surgery in December, Stricker, 48, isn't sure he's physically up to the task of 36 holes, but he has no reservations about "giving it a rip."

"I want to play in The Open. . . . I've had some good Opens. And it's at a point in time in my career that I don't know how many of these I'm going to get to play in again," Stricker said at Muirfield Village GC in preparation for his 15th start in the Memorial. "So I'm trying to take advantage of them and trying to play in them.

"It's going to be a challenge, I think. I'm finding it hard to put multiple days of practice together and tournaments together yet," he added, alluding to his ongoing rehabilitation after surgery for a bulging disc in his lower back. "So if I go ahead and make the cut here, play well here, hopefully this week, end up on Sunday and then a quick turnaround, 36 holes on Monday, it will be a challenge. And it will give me a good idea of where I'm at physically. I think I'll be fine."

Having played a limited schedule in 2012 and '13 so that he could spend more time at home in Madison, Wis., with his family, Stricker had his '14 season restricted further by back problems. He did not begin his 2015 campaign until the Masters, where he fired a closing 4-under 68 at Augusta National GC to finish T-28. He has made three starts since, with his best finish T-27 at Colonial.

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His Memorial record is a portrait in feast or famine. He won the 2011 edition for the 10th of his 12 PGA Tour titles after previously failing to record a top-10 finish at Muirfield Village. Last year he added a T-6 effort. He'll likely need a win or solo second this week to avoid an Ernie Banks "Let's play two" Monday.

But if he has to qualify, he is not above it, even with career earnings of more than $40 million. He'll join the likes of Davis Love III in the Columbus sectional, marquee veterans who don't let their egos get in the way of their aspirations to play in the national championship.

"It will be fun," said the always-optimistic Stricker, who will begin hosting his own Champions Tour event next year in Wisconsin. "I'm not afraid of it. I'm not afraid of trying to go and trying to qualify that way and get in the tournament that way. Because you never know, once you get in, you could have a great week and change the rest of your year or career sometimes."

He would know. See Winged Foot, 2006.

Follow @daveshedloski


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