Steve Stricker finds nothing easy in Round 1 at Birkdale

David Cannon/R&A/R&A via Getty Images

Steve Stricker finds nothing easy in Round 1 at Birkdale

Professional

Steve Stricker finds nothing easy in Round 1 at Birkdale

SOUTHPORT, England – Steve Stricker’s round at Royal Birkdale on Thursday featured a little bit of everything that makes the British Open such an immense challenge.

Early morning rain and wind served as the backdrop for an even-par 70 that left him five shots back of co-leaders Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Matt Kuchar.

Stricker, 50, from Madison, Wis. played the front nine at two over, making bogeys at the second and sixth holes.

Birdies at Nos. 10 and 13 helped steady his round. After bogeying 16, he came back with another birdie at the 567-yard, par-5 17th. Stricker, who teed off at 7:41 a.m. local, said it took him some time to get his bearings.

“It was important getting that one at 10,” the Presidents Cup captain said. “I just got over here Monday and it was tough. I didn’t feel very ready to go this morning. Getting up at 5:30 here, which is still 11:30 at home, you feel like you should be sleeping. My body didn’t feel very good. I warmed up and thought like, ‘Geez, we’ve got our work cut out for us today.’ So I just managed my way around there. It’s all a challenge.”

To meet the test, Stricker went to school on how the groups in front of him handled the conditions. Gusting winds played havoc on shotmaking in the early going.

“It’s just really each condition, each shot,” he said. “The ball goes a long ways downwind and doesn’t go very far into the wind. Big variables, there, that we’re not used to. So you’ve got to try to adjust and think about it. It takes a little bit of extra thought.”

And then you think about those bunkers, pocking the links, looming like a sea of sharks. The mental gymnastics, Stricker said, begin on No. 1. Mark O’Meara, hitting the first tee shot of the Open, yanked it out of bounds.

An ominous start.

“Guys were having a hard time keeping it out of the right,” he said. “I think out of the first six guys, a couple hit it out of bounds. I was watching and knew the first couple of holes were going to be playing pretty tough. I escaped with a par on No. 1 and then bogeyed No. 2. But 1 is a very difficult hole with the wind coming off the left.”

Stricker has played in 14 British Opens, his best effort fourth-place at Royal Troon in 2016. At this stage of his career, he knows exactly what it takes to be successful in what the Brits insist be called the Open Championship.

“I’ve had a couple of good finishes here,” Stricker said. “I finished seventh here back in ’08, after like a 77 in the first round. The first couple of rounds were very difficult here 10 years ago, nine years ago. It’s just about moving forward, staying out of those bunkers and playing it forward, getting it on the green, making your pars. It’s a major championship, so pars are usually good.”

Stricker, 20th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting, had and up-and-down day with the flatstick. The pace of the surfaces here can be tricky. He hit 29 putts in Round 1.

“It’s always been a challenge for me to putt these greens,” he said. “I did OK today, missed a couple, but that’s another challenge over here, the speed of the greens. We’ve got to hit it so much harder than what we’re used to. It’s a challenge for everybody. But it’s fun. I enjoy coming over for this week and trying to figure it out.”

Latest

More Golfweek
Home