A top five player who is known as possibly the best player without a major wins the tournament immediately preceding a major. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
It didn’t work out so well for Lee Westwood, who was the last man standing at the 100-plus degree St. Jude’s Classic. Westwood then flew across the country to Pebble Beach for the U.S. Open, and started 4-over through his first five holes. Westwood hung in there, salvaging a tie for 16th at 8-over, but he sabotaged his chances to win with a nightmarish start to the championship.
Can Stricker do any better after flooding the spongy John Deere Classic with birdies and then taking a not quite free transatlantic charter to the Old Course and arriving Monday afternoon?
Well, if Stricker putts like he did last week (first in putts/GIR), he’ll have a great chance to win. But then again, putting on slow St. Andrews greens and through strong wind could be a great equalizer.
Stricker does have back-to-back top 10s in the 2007 and 2008 British Opens. But while Stricker’s first three days at last week’s John Deere Classic were a clinic — 27 birdies in 54 holes — he didn’t show much closing form on Sunday. His one-time six-shot lead wasn’t safe until runner-up Paul Goydos put it in the water on the 72nd hole.
And this shaky quote doesn’t exactly inspire confidence:
“I wasn’t the same player as I was for three days for sure,” Stricker said. “You’re just afraid to make a mistake and it’s hard to play golf that way. I thought I got off to a good start. I wasn’t backing down. I was coming out to try to make birdies right away. For some reason, it just kind of changed and I don’t know why.”
The nerves are a lot tougher to quell at a major. But then again, he probably won’t be worried about how he should protect a six-shot lead this weekend.
[AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall]