Fred Couples: “I love Steve Stricker. Everything he does is first class.”

MADISON, Wisconsin | PGA TOUR Champions golfer Fred Couples was among the golfing legends competing in day two of the Pro-Am at University Ridge golf course in Madison on Thursday. Couples will take part in the American Family Insurance Championship Friday-Sunday at U Ridge.

Couples, who has been a force in golf ever since his first PGA Tour victory in 1982 at the Kemper Open, is still a fan favorite. A group of kids were asking for a picture with him while he was on the driving range Thursday. His reaction? “Sure! Come here.”

Keep in mind the driving range is off limits to the general public. And Couples needs all the practice he can get after spending most of last season and part of this one out with a sore back. But Couples not only made time for the kids and their Dad. He also spent a few minutes giving props to Steve Stricker for being who he is and for hosting the Am Fam Championship.

“I love Steve Stricker,” said Couples. “He’s been a friend forever. Everything he does is first class so I’m sure this is a great spot.”

Couples went on to talk about his longtime relationship with Stricker and explained why he’s so well liked among his peers.

“He’s very friendly and has a great family. He’s gonna be a perfect President’s Cup captain. He’s just easy to be around.”

Couples says he doesn’t know a whole lot about the city of Madison. He’s been here a couple times before for various golf events. But he’s going to take in the Darius Rucker concert at Breese Stevens Field on Friday night and will return to the Badger State to see his Seattle Seahawks take on the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in September.

“I will  not have any Seahawks gear on. I won’t do that!”

Couples, who is 57 years old, says he will continue to play on the PGA Champions Tour as long as he’s competitive.

“If there comes a time I’m in 25th or 30th place, I can’t do that. My body is not strong enough anyone. Hopefully I have two or three more years. I keep saying that but hopefully.

Stricker excited for year two as tee times announced for Am Fam Championship (Audio)

MADISON | Steve Stricker admits year one of the PGA Champions Tour American Family Insurance Championship exceeded his expectations.

“Oh yeah,” said Stricker. “The money we raised exceeded our expectations.”

The 2016 American Family Insurance Championship made history in its first year, raising more than $1 million for charity. The total charitable proceeds of $1,089,500 was one of the highest-ever for a first-year PGA Champions Tour event. The money was distributed to the American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, Wis., and 33 other local charities.

Stricker, who tees off on hole #1 at 9:30 a.m. Friday June 23rd at University Ridge Golf Course in Verona, hopes for more of the same this year.

Here are the tee times for round one of the American Family Insurance Championship that were announced Wednesday.

ROUND 1 | TEE #1:

8:50 a.m. —  Steve Flesch, Mike Goodes, Reidsville, Scott Simpson

9 a.m. — Brian Henninger, Mark Brooks, Steve Pate

9:10 a.m. — Larry Mize, Craig Parry, Scott Verplank

9:20 a.m. — Jim Schuman, Skip Kendall, Jerry Kelly

9:30 a.m. — Steve Stricker, Fred Couples, Kirk Triplett

9:40 a.m. — John Daly, Scott McCarron, Miguel Angel Jimenez

9:50 a.m. — Colin Montgomerie, Ian Woosnam, Nick Faldo

10 a.m. — Stephen Ames, David Frost, Woody Austin

10:10 a.m. — Brandt Jobe, Olin Browne, Mark Calcavecchia

10:20 a.m. — Marco Dawson, Scott Dunlap, John Huston

10:30 a.m. — Michael Allen, Esteban Toledo, Jerry Smith

10:40 a.m. — Carlos Franco, Jeff Maggert, Doug Garwood

10:50 a.m. — Phillip Price, James Kingston, Fran Quinn

ROUND 1 | TEE #10

8:50 a.m. — Bob Tway, Kevin Sutherland, Rod Spittle

9 a.m. — Bob Gilder, Bart Bryant, Tom Byrum

9:10 a.m. — Dan Forsman, Joey Sindelar, Jerry Pate

9:20 a.m. — Tommy Armour III, Glen Day, Loren Roberts

9:30 a.m. — Todd Hamilton, Steve Lowery, Jay Don Blake

9:40 a.m. — Jim Carter, John Riegger, Russ Cochran

9:50 a.m. — Billy Mayfair, Michael Bradley, Corey Pavin

10 a.m. — Paul Goydos, Kenny Perry, Fred Funk

10:10 a.m. — Gene Sauers, Jeff Sluman, Jay Haas

10:20 a.m. — Billy Andrade, Lee Janzen, Wes Short, Jr.

10:30 a.m. — Duffy Waldorf, Joe Durant, Paul Broadhurst

10:40 a.m. — Scott Parel, Bobby Gage, Willie Wood

10:50 a.m. — Kent Jones, Mike Small, Tommy Tolles

Alternates:

1. Bill Glasson

2. Tom Purtzer

3. Blaine McCallister

4. Danny Edwards

5. John Jacobs

6. Brad Bryant

7. Bobby Wadkins

8. Mike Springer

9. Leonard Thompson

10. Mike Reid

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.”

Stricker, Niebrugge make the cut at U.S. Open

ERIN, Wisc. — Wisconsin natives Steve Stricker and Jordan Niebrugge both made the cut heading into the weekend at Erin Hills and the U.S. Open, finishing with identical second round scores (even par 72) to sit +1 overall.

Stricker update (Click for video)

Stricker talked about playing the Open in his home state after his second round, and the difficulty of playing in front of his fans.

“That’s the challenge of playing at home,” said Stricker. “You have to try to put all that extra pressure and deflect it. It’s hard because you hear it on every hole. Over the years I’ve gotten better at that. I really enjoy it and try to more than years past.”

Stricker seemed pleased with his play despite some tough conditions.

“I hit a lot of good putts.  The pins today are in areas where there’s a lot of break. So you have to be on the right side.”

Stricker also says, despite the -7 score by leader Rickie Fowler, the USGA did not change things up too much to try to make the course more difficult.

“I feel like it’s similar (to round one conditions). They didn’t go overboard. They moved 18 way back, but some of the bigger hitters will still get home in two. The pin locations were slightly harder. But nothing extreme.”

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.

Stricker excited for year two as tee times announced for Am Fam Championship (Audio)

MADISON | Steve Stricker admits year one of the PGA Champions Tour American Family Insurance Championship exceeded his expectations. “Oh yeah,” said Stricker. “The money we raised exceeded our expectations.” The 2016 American Family Insurance Championship made history in its first year, raising more than $1 million for charity. The total charitable proceeds of $1,089,500 was […]

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The 2017 Ultimate DBag Bracket

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USGA: Spectator passes away at U.S. Open

Officials with the United States Golf Association announced early Friday afternoon that a fan attending the U.S. Open at Erin Hills outside of Milwaukee had passed away. Their statement: “The USGA was saddened to learn that a spectator at Erin Hills passed away a short time ago. Out of respect for the family, we are […]

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Steve Stricker expects to contend for U.S. Open Championship

ERIN, Wisconsin | Steve Stricker didn’t get the automatic exemption he wanted. The Edgerton native had to play his way into the 117th U.S. Open. Playing in this year’s major at Erin Hills was paramount for Stricker. After all this is the first time in the 117 years of the U.S. Open it’s being playing in the state of Wisconsin. Stricker would like nothing more that to be near the top of the leader board during Sunday’s final round.

“It’s very exciting to be here,” said Stricker during Tuesday’s news conference. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to be here but I’m very excited and relieved. I worked hard to get here. Put a lot of extra effort in playing in different tournaments to get here so all in all it worked out. It should be a great event. I go into every tournament expecting to play well so this is really no different. I’m going in trying to compete best I can and hopefully get in contention. That’s my goal is to contend and see what happens.”

The 50-year old Stricker has played well lately. He won a 36-hole sectional qualifier in Memphis, Tennessee to make it into the U.S. Open field. He’s playing in his 20th U.S. Open. And the 12-time PGA Tour winner is certainly a crowd favorite. He received a loud ovation from the Erin Hills crowd during Tuesday’s practice rounds.

“It’s overwhelming at times the number of people that are coming up to me wishing me luck. I get a pretty nice round of applause just during the practice round so it was pretty cool!”

Stricker is scheduled to tee off at 2:20 central time on Thursday July 15th.

 

 

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.

Steve Stricker shoots -4 at round one of British Open

Troon, Scotland — Madison resident Steve Stricker is 49 years old. He hasn’t played in the Open Championship since 2013. And yet he sits at -4 in a tie for 4th place after round one.

Stricker birdied three of his final five holes to post a 67. He qualified for this week with a  second place tie in Memphis a month ago.  While he’s never won a major, Stricker has connected for twelve top 10’s, eight of which since turning 40, including a pair in the season’s third major.

Unfortunately for Stricker, even with his big first round, he’s still four shots behind the leader. Phil Michelson tied a major championship record with a round one 63. Mickelson leads at -8.