Team Favre wins celebrity foursome at American Family Insurance Championship

MADISON — While the story of the day on Friday at the American Family Insurance Championship was how well tournament host Steve Stricker played, Saturday wasn’t the same.

The reasoning behind that was not only Stricker’s rough day (2-over for the day, 6-under for the tournament), but also the celebrity foursome that took place in the afternoon.

Lee Trevino, Andy North, Derek Jeter, and Brett Favre all took on the back-nine at University Ridge once the final group of the day had passed on through.

Trevino and North are both two-time U.S. Open winners, Jeter will one day find himself as a member of baseball’s hall of fame — likely as soon as he’s eligible in 2019 — and Favre is a three-time NFL MVP and a Super Bowl champion. It would be rather difficult to assemble a more accomplished foursome.

The group started on the 10th hole and they were individually introduced. As imagined, Favre received the loudest ovation.

The foursome split in teams of two, with North and Favre making up one team while Jeter and Trevino composed the second.

Things stayed close throughout the nine-hole event, as neither team opened up more than a one-stroke lead the entire time.

Obviously, North and Trevino were both excellent golfers in their day and still have some of what made them great when they were on tour. Trevino — at 79 years of age — can’t quite generate the club speed as the other three, but he still knew his way around the course.

“These guys [on tour] are swinging at 115 miles an hour, average 113,” Trevino said prior to the round. “I’m not even in the 90s any more. I don’t know if I was in the 90s I guess in my heyday.”

He couldn’t quite keep up with the others distance wise, but he was still pretty solid on the course, and certainly a treat to be around.

One of the more enjoyable things for spectators was the ability to hear when the players were saying to each other when they were within earshot of fans. There were a few times throughout the round that one of the players would joking warn fans to watch out in case of an errant shot.

Jeter was certainly impressive as a golfer. He was able to make solid contact more times than not, which could be expected of a member of baseball’s 3000-hit club. The former captain of the New York Yankees also knew his way around the green, dropping in multiple putts from 15 feet or more.

As for Favre, there were times he looked as if he belonged, but also some others where he looked much more like a normal person on the golf course.

He did, however, clinch the victory for his team on the 18th green.

Stricker’s struggles

While Stricker finished the first round with the lead on Friday carding an 8-under 66, the course wasn’t as kind to him on Saturday.

Stricker’s lone birdie came on the 18th hold as he finished with a 2-over, 74 for the round. This was the first over-par round of his PGA Tour Champions career.

Stricker had carded 30 consecutive rounds under par, which is the fourth-longest streak in the history of the tour.

“It was a tough day, but that was a big birdie in my mind,” Stricker said of his birdie on the 18th hole. “It kept me a little bit closer. I mean, no one ran away with this thing today and three shots back, a lot of guys between me and the lead. Yeah, it was a good putt to make and finally get a birdie.

“It was just one of those days where I didn’t have a lot of energy. Nothing — hit very few good shots really. The couple that I did hit well, I was in bad spots, and a couple of bad shots even got worse. So nothing really went my way today except for that last putt.”

Stricker will begin the final round on Sunday tied for 14th at 6-under. He will tee off at 10 a.m. CT.

Madison’s other resident

With Stricker being the host of the tournament, it’s sometimes easy to forget about the other Madison resident playing in the tournament. Jerry Kelly certainly had a better day than Stricker on Saturday.

After shooting a 4-under 68 on Friday, Kelly followed that up with a 3-under 69 Saturday at University Ridge. He’s currently sitting at 7-under for the weekend and finds himself in a tie for sixth with seven other players.

Leader in the clubhouse

Esteban Toledo entered the day five shots off the lead after posting a 3-under 69 on Friday. Saturday was a much better day for him as he was 6-under, climbing all the way up to first on the leaderboard.

Toldeo holds a one-stroke lead over David Toms, Kent Jones, Fred Couples, and Billy Mayfair for the lead. The final group of Toledo, Toms, and Jones will tee off at 11 a.m. CT on Sunday morning.

Stricker hanging around at the British Open after two rounds

The British Open hasn’t seen many low scores today due to heavy wind and rain, which has allowed a number of players to still be in the mix heading into the weekend. Play was briefly suspended after a heavy rain, which lead to puddles on some of the greens. Many golfers are already in the clubhouse, while others are finishing up their second round at Royal Birkdale Golf Club.

After finishing yesterday with an even par 70, Stricker continues to hang around the top-half of the leaderboard. Stricker shot +2 today, good enough for a 72 and puts him currently tied for 28th place. He struggled on the front nine, bogeying three holes and paring the other six. His back nine was more Stricker-like as he finished with eight pars and a birdie. He seems to have figured out hole 17, as he’s birdied it both days. On the other hand, he’s struggled on hole 6, bogeying it both rounds. Stricker should make the cut, as the projected cut is sitting at +5 to make the weekend.

Jordan Spieth is still currently holding on to the lead, as he’s -1 today through 13 holes and -6 under for the tournament. Matt Kuchar and Brooks Koepka are also still high on the leaderboard, as they are tied for second. Kuchar is in the clubhouse, as he shot +1 for the day, but is -4 for the tournament. Koepka, this years U.S. Open Champion, is +1 through 11 holes today, and is also -4 for the tournament.

Notables

Rory Mcllroy -1 for the tournament

Bubba Watson E for the tournament

Defending champion Henrik Stenson E for the tournament

Ernie Els +1 for the tournament

Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler +2 for the tournament

Dustin Johnson +3 for the tournament

Phil Mickelson +10 for the tournament

Stricker solid in British Open first round

The British Open also known as “The Open” started today and over half of the golfers have already finished up their first round. The British Open is the third major during the golf season. The co-leaders in the clubhouse are Jordan Spieth and this year’s U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka, who shot a -5 under 65. Fan favorite Matt Kuchar is also at -5 under through 11 holes. 

Wisconsin’s own Steve Stricker made the trip across the pond to compete in the tournament. Stricker shot a even par 70, which currently has him tied for 34th. On the front nine, Stricker compiled seven pars and two bogeys. He finished his back nine with three birdies, one bogey, and five pars. Stricker is still searching for his first major championship win.

Notables

Hideki Matsuyama shot -2 for the day

Henrik Stenson shot -1 for the day

Jason Day is -1 through thirteen holes

Rickie Fowler is E through twelve holes

Dustin Johnson is E through seven holes

Phil Mickelson is E through five holes

Bubba Watson is +1 through five holes

Sergio Garcia is +2 through thirteen holes

Jason Dufner shot +3 for the day

Rory Mcllroy is +5 through seven holes

 

Fred Couples wins Am Fam Championship, Steve Stricker finishes third

MADISON — An emotional and draining few weeks came to an end Sunday afternoon for Steve Stricker.

The Madison resident, who needed a qualifier just to get into the first-ever U.S. Open in Wisconsin earlier in June, and then went and finished in the top-20 against the best players in the world in that tournament last week, was just off the course after his final round of the American Family Insurance Championship when he walked up to speak with reporters. The exhaustion was all over his face, but just how drained was he?

“I’m tired,” Stricker said with a grin. “This is six out seven weeks playing, and the last two have been full of excitement and pressure. It’s been great, don’t get me wrong, but I’m ready for a little time off and to get away from the game a little bit.”

Despite being tired, Stricker came on strong down the stretch, shooting a 3-under-par 69 on Sunday, coming in at 12 under for weekend, good enough to finish in a tie for third.

But no one could keep up with Fred Couples, who took the lead midway through his round and went on to shoot a 66, winning by two strokes over Scott Verplank.

LISTEN: Fred Couples talks about his win.

“It was one of those days where you’re trying to press, you’re trying to catch (Couples), and that makes it harder,” said Stricker, who served as the host of the tournament. “It’s harder to make putts when you have to, and that’s kind of where I felt like I was at today. I had to make them, and I just didn’t.”

Like they did a week earlier at Erin Hills for the U.S. Open, large crowds followed Stricker’s grouping wherever it went during the three-day event at University Ridge. And while it may have added a little pressure to Stricker’s round, Couples reveled in it.

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Fred Couples

“I made a putt at 18 (on Saturday), which put me in a pairing with (Stricker),” Couples said. “That was a big deal because everyone knows there will be 15,000 people all following Steve and I wanted to be in that group. It gets your heart rate going.”

It was Couples’ second win on the Champions Tour this year, as he also took home the title at the Chubb Classic in Florida back in February. But this win came after not playing the last seven weeks thanks to his ongoing battle with his own body breaking down as he gets older.

“He’s a tremendous talent. He’s always been a great player. Why would it stop now? He showed us why he is the type of player that he is,” Stricker said.

“He forced everybody to come and get him and nobody could.”

Stricker was fine with the result.

“That’s OK,” the 50-year-old said. “[Walking up 18] I’m like, ‘Well, if you win now, you have to come back.’ He’s like, ‘I’ll be back.’ So all good things.”

The same could be said of the last few weeks for Stricker. He wasn’t expected to make it into the U.S. Open but did. Few thought he had chance to compete on a monstrous course like Erin Hills, but he silenced any doubters with his performance. And then, in his first chance to play in his own tournament, he more than held held his own. Throw in the money raised for the UW Children’s Hospital this past week and things couldn’t have played out much better for Stricker’s hectic June.

“This just tops it all off,” Stricker said. “It was a tremendous week on all counts.”

Stricker with another strong round to finish the U.S. Open at 5-under

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.”

Stricker makes a push on moving day at the U.S. Open

Steve Stricker was so close to having a dream third round at the U.S. Open.

The 50-year-old, backed with a throng of vocal supporters watching his every move, charged down the back nine at Erin Hills on Saturday with birdies on three of his last four holes as he approached the par-5 18th. It’s a beast of a hole at 637 yards, and for someone that doesn’t hit it as far as he once did, it can be daunting. Stricker pulled out his 3-wood and took aim.

“(I was trying) to stay out of those bunkers and ended up putting it in one of them,” he said afterwards. “From there you’re behind the eight-ball.”

The Edgerton native still managed to give himself a chance at a long birdie putt, but missed that and would end up three putting, finishing the round with a 3-under 69, leaving him at 2-under for the tournament.

“Yeah, a little disappointing the way I finished there on 18,” Stricker said. “Really a solid day, though, all the way around. I made some saves when I had to. Made some good putts, but it would have been nice to get a birdie look at 18 instead of making a bogey.”

Still, it was a breakthrough for Stricker, who had a total of five birdies for the round that left him six shots off the lead when he left the course. And though it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to make a run up the leaderboard on Sunday, he at least gave himself an outside chance.

“It depends on the weather, I guess,” Stricker said when asked what he could shoot on the final day. “It’s tough. This is a tough course for me.

“(Still,) I expect to be where I’m at or better. I still feel like I’ve got some game. It’s coming a little harder, it seems like, on a regular basis. But I still feel like I do a lot of good things to compete out here.”

No matter what he shoots, he’ll have the crowd on his side. As he was coming down the 18th fairway, he got a standing ovation, and the cheers for his birdies could be heard all over the course grounds.

“I’ve been feeding off of them all week,” Stricker said of the crowd. “It’s been fun. The ovation I got going up 18 is unbelievable. The support all the way around has been tremendous.”

Steve Stricker Update

Wisconsin’s own Steve Stricker finished up his first round at Erin Hills for this year’s U.S. Open Thursday evening. He was part of one of the last half dozen  groups to walk off the course yesterday after a round he shot 73. Stricker had an up and down front nine and a consistent par heavy back nine.

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

He started his Thursday round teeing off at 3:20 pm starting on the first hole. Stricker started his round off strong, as he birdied his first two holes  to start the day at two under. He then ran into trouble holes three and four and ended up bogeying both to bring him back to even par. Stricker finished his last five holes of the front nine adding four pars and yet another bogey.

He made the turn at hole number 10 and parred ever single hole on the back nine. Stricker finished the day at +1 and shot a 73, good enough to put him in a tie for 61st place. He tallied two birdies, 13 pars, and three bogeys in his first round of the U.S. Open.  For fans who had hopes of Stricker taking home his first PGA Major Championship, there is still a chance for the home state hero . So far this season, Stricker has been starting out slow. He has an overall score over par for his first round in tournaments. After the first round, Stricker seems to find his groove as he has an overall score under par for all of the final three rounds in tournament play this year.

Stricker teed off this morning at 9:35. He is in a group that features tour veteran Stewart Cink and
Roberto Diaz. Stricker is currently through five holes and is -1 on the day and is sitting at even par for the tournament.

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Steve Stricker earns spot in U.S. Open after winning qualifier

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.

Stricker finishes fourth at British Open

TROON, SCOTLAND — While Henrik Stenson went on to win the British Open on Sunday to become the first Swedish man to win a major, Wisconsin native Steve Stricker finished fourth.

Stenson shot an 8-under 63 in Sunday’s final round, holding off Phil Mickelson for his first major title. Stricker’s overall 2-under 69 qualifies him for a spot in the Masters, as well as the Open Championship in 2017.

Stricker’s performance was also his best finish at an Open Championship, finishing tied for seventh at Birkdale in 2008.