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July 12 2012

9:58 PM

Stricker in contention to make history

Eagle eyes

Steve Stricker holes out from the fairway for an eagle 2 on No. 14 in Thursday's first round.

By Bill Cooney, PGATOUR.COM The locals are talking about the possibility of a "Stricker Slam" this week at the John Deere Classic. Steve Stricker is telling himself -- or at least trying to -- that he really has little chance to win the tournament for the fourth straight time. "I try to tell myself, I've won it three times. How in the heck can I win to the fourth time?" Stricker said Thursday. "I'm trying to downplay it to myself. Maybe it's working." It's definitely working. After a slow start, Stricker reeled off four birdies and an eagle -- in which he holed out from just under 80 yards away -- on the back nine en route to a 6-under 65 at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill. That put him four shots back of first-round leader Troy Matteson in a tie for third place. Stricker is attempting to become just the fifth player in history to win the same tournament four times in succession, joining 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 got things going with an eagle 2 on the 14th hole and added birdies on Nos. 15 and 17. Replay Stricker's round HERE. "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." During his previous three victories at the John Deere, Stricker opened at 71 (2009), 60 ('10) and 66 ('11), so he's certainly in position to do it again. "Tomorrow should get some fresh greens (in the morning)," Stricker, ranked 20th in FedExCup points, 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."
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