Stricker's comeback continues at U.S. Open
BETHESDA, MD. Steve Stricker walked out of the muggy afternoon heat Saturday afternoon and into the clubhouse at Congressional Country Club where his family was waiting.
Stricker’s 6-year-old daughter, Isabella, pushed a white U.S. Open cap toward her father and asked him to sign it.
Instead of an autograph, she got a smile and a rub on the head from her father, who had just completed his second straight 2-under par 69 to continue working his way up the leader board in the U.S. Open. Stricker is at even-par 210 through 54 holes, which doesn’t put him close to runaway leader Rory McIlroy but has him in a better frame of mind, considering his rough start.
“I’m a long ways away. I’m just trying to get it back and maybe shoot a good one (Sunday),” Stricker said.
The Edgerton was on his way to something potentially special on Saturday when he played his first nine holes in 3-under-par 33. Taking advantage of gentle scoring conditions and a generous set-up, Stricker birdied the first hole, bogeyed the fourth, then strung together three straight birdies, starting at No. 7.
“It’s set up really for the taking on the front side, and it’s soft,” Stricker said. “I made the score on the front where you’re supposed to. That stretch is set up pretty easy where you can make some birdies. A little up and down on the back but overall pretty good.”
Riding three birdies, Stricker went to the 10th tee with the most momentum he’d had in the championship and the small advantage of having the tee moved up on the watery par-3. Stricker hit the green but then three-putted for a bogey after misreading his first putt.
“I hit it on the green there and got that part over with,” Stricker said. “I played real cautiously into the green, and to walk off there with a bogey … and then you’ve got No. 11 staring you in the face. It wasn’t a very good start to the back nine.”
It got better at the par-3 13th hole when, after misjudging the wind on his tee shot, Stricker holed a 60-footer for birdie.
With one round remaining, Stricker has been pleased with the way Congressional has played.
“It’s typical of the way they’ve been setting it up the last three, four, five years,” Stricker said. “The rough is playable. They’ve messed around with tee locations and moved us up on some holes.
“I really like what they’ve done on par-5s, giving guys opportunities to go for the green in two. They’re setting it up great.
“If it was firm and fast, we’d all be pulling our hair out.”
As it is, Stricker—like other players—is marveling at the performance being turned in by McIlroy.
“It’s not over yet. I can’t speculate on what’s going to happen before it happens, but he’s a tremendous player,” Stricker said.
“He’s got a lot of talent, and he’s only 22. He’s got the world in front of him, really.
“His game looks flawless. His swing looks great. I think it looks just as good as when Tiger was in his prime and swinging at it at his best. You just don’t see any flaws.”