Stricker four back in calm conditions
SANDWICH, ENGLAND Like almost everyone else at Royal St. George’s golf course Thursday afternoon, Steve Stricker found himself looking around late in the day wondering where the wind had gone.
What had begun as a rugged day with plenty of wind and spots of rain melted into a relatively soft afternoon that allowed players to attack the course.
“How about that, huh?” Stricker said after finishing a 1-under-par 69 that left him four behind co-leaders Thomas Bjorn and amateur Tom Lewis after the first 18 holes of the British Open.
Stricker played solidly in the first round, minimizing the drama. The Edgerton native shot 1 over par on the front side, then took advantage of the softer conditions on the way in with birdies at the 12th and 15th holes.
Along the way, Stricker made a brilliant par save at the 13th after hitting his tee shot into one of St. George’s deep, sod-faced bunkers. He gouged his second shot out of the bunker, then stuck a 136-yard sand wedge shot to within three feet of the hole to save par, an emotional boost for Stricker.
“I feel good about it,” Stricker said of his opening round. “It’s still tough, no matter if the wind is there or not. If you’re not in the fairway, it’s very difficult to get the ball on the greens.”
Stricker was asked after his round whether he likes Royal St. George’s. He took his time before answering.
“It’s ... .interesting,” he said. “You can hit it down the middle, and it could end up in the middle, or it could end up in the left rough or end up in the right rough.”
Since arriving in England on Monday morning, Stricker has done his best to get acclimated to the time change, the weather and links golf. Just days removed from winning the John Deere Classic in Illinois for the third straight year, he is trying to forget about what he did last week.
“I tried not to think about John Deere at all once I got off the plane,” Stricker said. “But it’s been hard.
“I have to think about what’s important here. I’m trying to treat it like last year didn’t happen. But it gives you a lot of confidence no matter which way you slice it.”