Dublin, Ohio — Steve Stricker is the former 2011 champion of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance, however he is still working to make his way back from a Dec. 2014 back surgery.
Stricker, 48, is ranked 176th in the 2015 FedEx Cup standings and now ranked 94th in the world.
He will be making his fifth start of the season at Muirfield Village and opened the year with a tie for 28th at the Masters. His struggles this season included a missed cut at the Zurich Classic. His top finish in the 2014-15 season was a tie for 27th place at the Crowne Plaza Invitational.
Stricker has called Muirfield Village “difficult” citing that golfers need to learn its fairways and greens to have success here.
“It’s one of those courses where you can get it going and shoot a good number,” Stricker said. “If you’re a little bit off, there’s some real trouble to be had around here.”
Familiarity will not be an issue for Stricker who has made the cut at Muirfield Village in 14 out of his 15 total starts. He also competed there as a member of the 2013 United States Presidents Cup Team.
“It’s just a special place, it feels like home so it’s always nice to come back here,” said Stricker. “The Tournament is so first class, they treat us so well and put on a great event here that it’s one you look forward to come back to every year.”
The biggest question concerning Stricker will be his durability over the next few days. Stricker hopes to make the cut and be in contention at Murfield Village, but his biggest concern might come on Monday.
Depending on Stricker’s results at Murfield Village, he would likely have to compete on Monday in a 36 -hole, U.S. Open Sectional qualifier at Brookside Golf & Country Club and The Lakes Golf Country Club. He needs to be ranked inside the top 60 to automatically qualify. Stricker has been exempt from qualifying for the U.S. Open Championship since 2006, so qualifying will be a challenge to him.
Stricker is at the stage of his career where U.S. Open opportunities become less and less based on ranking and personal performance, so he is not worried about how he gets into Chambers Bay, site of 115th U.S. Open.
I’m not afraid of trying to qualify that way and get in the tournament,” Stricker said. “You never know, once you get in, you could have a great week and change the rest of your year or career sometimes.”
The physical burden on his back of potentially playing 72 holes over four days, then turning around and playing 36 more on Monday day is something that Stricker says he is mentality ready for. He has kept his body as rested as he can in between events, citing that he often does not pick up a club for “three or four days” after an event.
“I’ve progressively gotten better each and every time I’ve teed it up and even when I am home, I can feel a difference in strength,” said Stricker. “So it’s a little bit of a mixed bag yet and not sure of what to expect come Monday, but I think I’ll be fine.”
Regardless of what happens with his golf game in the state of Ohio, Stricker will be a winner back in his home state of Wisconsin.
It was recently announced that Stricker and one of his endorsers, American Family Insurance, will become the title sponsor a Champions Tour event called the American Family Insurance Championship.
The event will take place at University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, and be held from June 22-26 in 2016. Stricker will be the host of the event with proceeds benefiting the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation and the American Family Children’s Hospital.
Stricker is set tee off at 1:05 p.m. on Thursday paired with Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.
story by – Chris Dazen