MADISON — The first round of the American Family Insurance Championship is in the books, and there is a familiar name atop the leaderboard.
Madison’s Steve Stricker shot an 8-under 64 at University Ridge on Friday and owns a 1-shot lead in the Champions Tour event.
“It’s good just to get off to a fast start, which is key out here,” Stricker said. “There’s only three rounds, so you need to have a do-it-every-day attitude. This was the first day and I did well today. I’ve got to do the same thing (Saturday) and just keep doing what I’m doing. Just keep putting it in play and giving myself opportunities.”
Stricker went through the first nine holes at 4-under, but it probably should have been better. He missed a putt on the ninth hole for par that still had him a little upset afterwards, but he finished strong on the back nine.
“Absolutely not [with] the way he’s been playing,” said fellow Wisconsin native Jerry Kelly when asked if he was surprised with how well Stricker scored. “I talked with him (Thursday), and he was, of course, complaining that he couldn’t make anything. I know how well he’s hitting it.”
It’s Stricker’s second year being able to play on the Champions Tour, and the event makes for a tough back-to-back with the U.S. Open happening the week prior. But the fact he serves as the host, and more importantly, knowing all the benefits the event has for the kids at the American Family Children’s Hospital, Stricker is grinding through.
“It’s a lot of adrenaline this week. That’s kind of what I’m running on, I think,” Stricker said. “It’s a big week for us, so I’m just going with it. I’ll hit the wall, I’m sure, next week.”
Before that happens, he’ll have to fend off a stable of players that are within striking distance of the lead. Brad Bryant, who said he’s playing simply to get himself prepared for the U.S. Senior Open coming up, shot a 7-under 65 and sits in second place. Two shots behind him is Colin Montgomerie, John Daly and Steve Flesch. Kelly is tied for sixth at 4-under and last year’s champion, Fred Couples, is at 3-under.
“Now, it’s actually more fun,” Kelly said of the second and third rounds. “It’s ‘let’s go chase Steve.’”