Steve Stricker produced regular birdies for the first 68 holes of the Memorial Tournament thanks to the apparent lack of tension in his swings that when it was time for the players to head to the Muirfield Village Golf Club to endure several hours of weather delay, there seemed to be little reason for them to even return to the course.
As the long shadows fell across the golf course, Stricker was sheepishly smiling while walking off the 18th green. He shook tournament host Jack Nicklaus’ hands and said “It wasn’t pretty.”
That may be true but Stricker’s victory painted a pretty picture of his position as he ended up with a 16 under par thanks to his closing 68 which was better than the shots made by Brandt Jobe and Matt Kuchar.
Apparently, Stricker’s performance at the Memorial will make him the No. 4 top American golf player in the world when the rankings are released Monday. But will this make him ready for his first major title on June 16 when the U.S. Open starts at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda?
“I don’t know why he hasn’t won a major yet,” Nicklaus said. “But as long as he wants to play, the next couple, three years — or even this year, the way he’s playing — watch out at Congressional.”
The 44-year old Stricker dominated the Memorial going out and not coming in as his score on the first nine over the last three days at Muirfield was 30, 31 and 30.
“The thought of blowing it and not performing down the stretch to win, it came through my mind,” Stricker said,
Stricker’s best shots actually came when he seemed to be in most trouble. Take for example his play at bunk 12 where he pulled off the ball’s slow trickle to save par. He was only leading by two when he came to the par-3 16th and got another par save at 16-footer. He blasted to seven feet when he found another bunker at 17.
“That putt was probably the tournament,” he said, and he made it.
With ten victories in the PGA Tour, Stricker is now ranked higher than Phil Mickelson or even Tiger Woods but he needs a major. His best chance came at the PGA Championship in 1998 where he tied with Vijay Singh for the final round and shot 70 to Singh’s winning 68.
“It’s always been a big goal, probably more so now than a few years ago,” Stricker said. “I feel like I’ve done a lot of nice things in my career, especially the last five or six years, that that would really top off my career.”
“The window of opportunity is probably getting smaller and smaller each and every time I play in a major,” Stricker said. “. . . So yeah, you could say it’s a little bit more on my mind.”