Edgerton native four shots out of lead
Steve Stricker’s attempt for a grand slam of John Deere Classic titles got off to an acceptable start Thursday.
The Edgerton native shot an opening-round 65, which in most tournaments would have put him in or near the lead.
In the John Deere Classic, however, it put him in a tie for third, four shots behind first-round leader Troy Matteson, who shot a 61.
Stricker is going for his fourth straight title in this tournament. Only three other players in the modern era and four in the history of golf have won the same tournament four consecutive times, and Stricker has been reminded of his quest many times coming into the tournament.
He doesn’t want to dwell on it.
“I try to tell myself, I’ve won it three times. How in the heck can I win it the fourth time?” Stricker said Thursday. “I’m trying to downplay it to myself. Maybe it’s working.”
During his previous three victories at the John Deere, Stricker opened at 71 (2009), 60 (’10) and 66 (’11).
An eagle 2 on the par-4 No. 14 highlighted his round. He landed his approach shot from 80 yards out about four feet from the pin and it spun back into the hole.
“You don’t expect it to go in, but that was really a big momentum boost for me on the back side,” Stricker said of the eagle. “When you can go from 2 to 4-under in one shot, that provides a lot of momentum and it got me going.”
Stricker used that momentum to birdie No. 15 and No. 17. He shot a 6-under 30 on the back nine. He played the front nine in even-par 35 before a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-5 10th hole started his back-nine run.
If Stricker wins, he joins Young Tom Morris (British Open 1868-70, 1872), Walter Hagen (PGA Championship 1924-27), Gene Sarazen (Miami Open 1926, 1928-30), and Tiger Woods (Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard 2000-03; Buick Invitational 2005-08).
Stricker can look forward to his 7:30 a.m. tee time today, after playing an afternoon round Thursday.
“Tomorrow should get some fresh greens (in the morning),” Stricker said. “Some good low scores out there this morning, but I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully get another good solid round under my belt tomorrow.”