Steve Stricker, 50, among U.S. Open hopefuls battling weather

Steve Stricker-US Open Getty Images

Steve Stricker, 50, among U.S. Open hopefuls battling weather

Golf

Steve Stricker, 50, among U.S. Open hopefuls battling weather

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A two-hour weather delay at Brookside Golf & Country Club and Lakes Golf & Country Club on Monday morning only ensured that an already long day of 36-hole U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying would grow even longer, into darkness. But play is off and running around the country at 10 locations that will help get the field at the 117th U.S. Open closer to finalization.

Among those qualifying today: Fifty-year-old Steve Stricker, who departed The Memorial in Ohio on Sunday to get to Memphis, where he will compete at Germantown Country Club and Ridgeway Country Club. It’s an important day for Stricker. He’s a Wisconsin native, and the U.S. Open, to be played at Erin Hills from June 15-18, never has been played in his state.

He doesn’t want to miss it.

Because The Memorial was impacted by weather, Stricker had an opportunity to stay in Columbus to qualify, but instead he headed off to Memphis. Two players in the Memorial field, Nick Taylor and 20-year-old Aussie Brett Coletta, opted to change sites to play in Columbus. For Coletta, that meant not flying across the country to get to today’s U.S. Open Sectional in Tacoma, Wash., where he was previously registered.

Stricker, a 12-time winner on the PGA Tour and this year’s U.S. Presidents Cup captain, even went through the extra effort of writing a letter to the U.S. Golf Association, requesting a special invitation. He was denied. Not that he was surprised by the outcome.

“I had no hope when I wrote it,” he said. “I just looked at the list of exemptions over the years. There were a couple in there … they gave an amateur one, Aaron Baddeley (in 2000, at Pebble Beach). He had won the Australian Open. I think the Masters even gave him a spot as well. He was a great amateur player coming out. Justifiable.

“But then you look at the whole list, past (special invitation) guys, and it’s a Who’s Who of the Golf Hall of Fame. It’s Palmer, Nicklaus, Watson, Trevino. And you go back, Snead, Hogan. I looked at that and said, there’s no chance. But I wrote one anyways. And I was fine with it.”

Stricker, ranked 84th in the Official World Golf Ranking (“It’s not like I’m chopping it,” he said), basically has two avenues into the field: He could qualify today, or he could play well enough at FedEx St. Jude this week to get into the OWGR top 60. Those in the top 60 next Monday will qualify for the field at Erin Hills.

Stricker resides in Edgerton, Wis., roughly a one-hour, 15-minute drive from Erin Hills. If he got in, he said he’d likely commute to the tournament from home. Memorial, where he struggled Sunday and fell back into a tie for 40th, marked his fourth consecutive week of competition. He’s in the Memphis field this week (five), would play the U.S. Open if he qualifies (six) and then has a start he wouldn’t miss in his home-state PGA Tour Champions event, the American Family Insurance Championship, June 23-25. That would be seven weeks in a row for a player who has cut back on his schedule in recent years to spend more time at home.

But Stricker had his wife, Nicki, and two daughters with him on the road in the three weeks leading into Memorial, and is trying to get as much rest as possible outside of tournament rounds. If the U.S. Open were being played somewhere else this summer, he might pass on it. But it’s right outside his back door, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“That’s the only reason it’s driving me, really,” Stricker said. “It’s there in my home state. I walked around with the USGA and the original owner (of Erin Hills), Bob Lang, right when the course was built, one of the first times the USGA was there. I was there with (USGA CEO) Mike Davis, (Erin Hills general chairman) Jim Reinhart, and the owner, Bob Lang. They were talking about the possibility of the U.S. Open there and they wanted a player to go around there. I was in on it from the start, kind of … The U.S. Open has never been in Wisconsin. I think it would really cool to be a part of it.”

Though Stricker said he held little hope of being extended a special invitation (he never has won a major, but he has competed in 19 U.S. Opens, twice finishing fifth), one idea gave him a small dose of optimism.

“What got my attention,” he said, “and what gave me a glimmer of hope is that they (the USGA) were trying to tell us players that they’re trying to build this relationship with the players, and do things a little bit differently. They’re not happy with the way things have gone the last couple of years out on the golf course with the rulings and the bad publicity.

“And I’m thinking, well … here’s a good opportunity right here. Let’s start right now.”

Latest

More Golfweek
Home