ERIN, Wis. — This wasn’t Steve Stricker’s first U.S. Open, and if he has his way, it won’t be his last. But the experience of being a part of the event’s first ever visit to Wisconsin is one that won’t leave him any time soon. From having to earn his spot by way of a qualifier tournament to the standing ovation he got as he made his way up the 18th fairway on Sunday, the 50-year-old Stricker managed to give himself and state golf fans countless special memories.
“There were so many cool moments,” Stricker said. “Walking up to every tee box and every green.
“The reception and the support I got all week long was just unbelievable. It was really cool.”
Stricker, like he did on Saturday, came tearing down the back nine. He birdied three of his final four holes as he approached the 18th hole. 24 hours earlier he bogeyed the 681-yard beast of a hole. This time around, though, he came through with a par to finish at 3-under for the round. It meant after shooting 1-over in the first two rounds, he was 6-under par for the weekend to finish 5-under for the week.
“To play well today on top of it was extra special,” he said. “And I’m glad I made it here. I’m glad I qualified and was able to play. It was a pretty special week all around.”
No one was quite sure what to expect from Stricker coming in. The Madison resident hadn’t played in the Open the last two years and was ranked 85th in the world coming in. The course, as long as it is, was supposed to work against him. Yet, as long hitters like Dustin Johnson failed to make the cut, Stricker finished in the top-20. As someone now eligible to play on the Champions Tour, the obvious question was if he envisions continuing to play in majors after efforts like this week.
“Yeah, as long as I can get in them, I’ll play them. This one was a challenge to get in,” Stricker said with a smile. “I’m excited about playing in all four of them this year. Yeah, as long as I can play in them, I would love to keep playing them.”
This week’s event was the last major scheduled to be played in Wisconsin, meaning it’s also likely Stricker’s last. Well, kind of. In his mind this week’s Champions Tour event at University Ridge in Madison, of which he’s the host for, is pretty big.
“The next major is next week,” Stricker said with a grin. “(The) Am Fam Championship.”