MEMPHIS — A rain delay and the pressure of trying to earn a spot to play in the U.S. Open in his home state couldn’t deter Madison’s Steve Stricker from winning a qualifying round Monday evening.
The 50-year-old shot a 4-under par 67 in round one and a 6-under 65 round two to win the qualifier with an overall 132. Five players finished a stroke behind Stricker, with the top nine finishers earning a spot at Erin Hills June 12-18.
Prior to Monday’s action, Stricker attempted to earn his way to Erin Hills by asking the USGA for an exemption — a request that was quickly denied.
“It means a lot,” Stricker said. “Not getting an exemption was a motivational factor. Not that I deserved one, but it’s been driving me to achieve this goal. And, I’m just happy that I’m going to get to play. It’s a relief to get to play in the first one in my home state.”
Stricker will be participating in another big golf event in his home state beginning on June 23rd — The American Family Insurance Championship at University Ridge in Madison. It’s part of the PGA Champions Tour for golfers aged 50-plus. Stricker spoke with the Wisconsin Sports Zone Network during Media Day about his chances of earning a spot at Erin Hills after failing to earn the exemption.
Stricker hasn’t played in the Open in three years, but has played the Erin Hills course a handful of times. He says his biggest obstacle will be finding a way to gain an extra 20 yards on his drive because of the sheer size of the course.