DUBLIN, Ohio—Not that many years ago, Steve Stricker was looking for sponsor’s exemptions to get into events. Now, in 2011, Stricker is cherry-picking his tournaments, creating a limited schedule that is works to his liking.
Playing in only his 10th event, Stricker, a Wisconsin native, has not missed a cut in 2011. He has recorded three top 10s and seven top 25s, taking full advantage of his starts.
Opening with a 4-under 68 in Thursday’s first round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village, Stricker is on his way to another made cut. This could also be another solid showing heading into the U.S. Open in two weeks at Congressional Country Club.
“I start thinking about [the U.S. Open] maybe a couple weeks ago after The Players Championship, thinking about Congressional and what you need to do there,” Stricker said. “I had a couple weeks off right after The Players, so I’m playing this week and then I’ll go back home again and work on some things and then head out there to the Open.“
Stricker’s best chance to win a major has always been at the U.S. Open because of his solid ball striking and an impeccable, if not unorthodox, putting stroke. The heel of the putter is off the ground while the toe rides along the green.
“I thought I handled it pretty well,” said Stricker of finishing sixth at Winged Foot. “I did some good things, and that’s what gave me a lot of confidence because I showed myself that even though I didn’t win, I still top‑tenned it and I did some good things. So that provided me with some confidence.”
Stricker has made every U.S. Open cut since, but has not bettered that finish at Winged Foot.
His history at the Memorial is just as solid—but also no wins. In his 11 starts at Muirfield Village, Stricker has made 10 cuts. His best finish is 13th in 2006, but a T27 in 2009 and a T17 last year show that Stricker is trending up.
Now with a 68, tying his best round at the Memorial, Stricker is positive about this week and his preparation for Congressional. He remains aware, though, of what will be required for both this week and Congressional.
“It comes down to more about scrambling, perseverance, guts, all that stuff, and I think that’s why I’ve had some good U.S. Opens, because you don’t need to be a bomber,” Stricker said. “You keep it in play, manage your way around the course and most times if you do that and play smart you can be there at the end.”
Stuart Hall is editor of the Golf Press Association.