Steve Stricker held on to win the Memorial Tournament by one shot over Brandt Jobe and Matt Kuchar. While the back nine got a little shaky, Stricker rolled in two clutch putts to save par on Nos. 16 and 17. What’s most fascinating to me is the discrepancy between how Stricker played the front nine and the back nine at Muirfield Village. He was 20-under on the front — of course, his three eagles on the first nine helped! — and four-over on the back. From his post-win presser:
Q. In terms of feeling or character or something, what is the essential difference between the front nine and the back?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, I don’t know. It’s very similar. There may be — I don’t know. There’s still trouble on the front. There’s trouble on the back. I think the situation was I got off to some really good starts the last couple of days, and you know, I got off — had a pretty big lead yesterday. It’s just a situation that I’m not too familiar with, having big leads and trying to increase those leads.
You know, I think yesterday I kind of played a little tentatively at times. It was a long, hot day yesterday. I may have lost my focus a little bit.
And then today I come out and do the same thing, you know, make the turn in 6-under and feeling really good about my game, and I was playing aggressively, and then we get the rain delay. You know, you sit in there for two and a half hours in the locker room thinking that you’ve got a three-shot lead or whatever you have, and you’re just trying to get it in the house at that point and maybe make a birdie or two coming down the stretch.
You know, it’s a long time to think about it, again, for another couple of hours waiting around. I just didn’t play like I know I’m capable of playing coming down the stretch. I made some great putts, but some of the shots weren’t really what I was dreaming of.
And this is why Steve Stricker is a class act and one of my favorite players. He’s just awesome. More from the presser:
Q. As was mentioned earlier you’re now No. 4 in the world, the top-ranked American. Do you feel like a superstar?
STEVE STRICKER: No. No, I don’t. I guess that’s why I dodged that question over there when they asked about it. I’ve been up to No. 2 in the world, and I just go about my own business. I don’t look at myself any differently. I don’t — I just go out and play, you know, and I try to play well. And I’m on a great run these last five or six years, and I just want to continue it.
I’m playing a little bit less, but I’m still getting a lot out of my game, and I’m enjoying playing a lot.
Q. Jack, do you think he’s a superstar?
JACK NICKLAUS: Do I think he’s a superstar? Yeah, but I think he’s a superstar in more ways than his golf game. I’ve had him on, I don’t know, four Presidents Cup —
STEVE STRICKER: Three Presidents Cup, but just one with you and I.
JACK NICKLAUS: Really, just one?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, up in Canada.
JACK NICKLAUS: Seemed like there were more.
CHRIS REIMER: You should have picked him (laughter).
JACK NICKLAUS: But even more, I think he’s been a superstar from the way he’s behaved himself, the way he handles his game, the way he handles people and the way he handles fans. He’s always done that, and that to me is equally as important as how well you score. I’ve always felt that about Steve.
I remember when he was in college, he was a great kid when he was in college, and here he is 25 years later and he’s still a great kid. Not a kid anymore, but he’s still a kid to me.
Q. I think it’s your 10th win now, and I’m just curious, given all that you’ve been through and some of the struggles you’ve had, 10, getting to double figures, is kind of a number that I think resonates a little –
STEVE STRICKER: This guy has got 18 majors. (Laughter.)
JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, I don’t know why he hasn’t won a major yet, but as long as he wants to play, the next couple, three years or even this year, the way he’s playing, watch out at Congressional or watch out someplace. He’ll get there.
STEVE STRICKER: Thank you.
Alright, it’s been a long day. I gotta get some rest. More in-depth posts tomorrow on Stricker, Kuchar and Jobe, etc. You can read some of my thoughts on PGA Tour Confidential over at golf.com later.