GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Zach Johnson, who came to the Wyndham Championship riding the momentum of four straight top-10 finishes, will not be playing in The Barclays next week.
He's got a pretty compelling reason, though. Johnson will be standing up for his brother Gabe as best man at his wedding.
Johnson came to Greensboro ranked No. 23 in the FedExCup standings so he should be good for at least three and probably all the Playoffs events. At 10th in the Presidents Cup, though, he only has this week and the Deutsche Bank Championship to try to maintain his spot in the automatic qualifiers for the U.S. Team.
Once the 10 qualifiers are finalized after the Deutsche Bank Championship, Fred Couples will complete his team with two picks on Sept. 4.
Steve Stricker, who ranks ninth in the Presidents Cup, won't be at The Barclays either. The 46-year-old is No. 19 in the FedExCup.
Stricker, the 2007 Barclays champion, is bypassing the first FedExCup Playoffs event, but will likely play the Deutsche Bank Championship, which he won in 2009, and BMW Championship in Illinois, where he attended college. Stricker also was runner-up the last time The Barclays was held at this year's site, Liberty National.
Stricker has been playing a limited schedule this year to spend more time at home, having already skipped one major, The Open Championship. He is No. 19 in the FedExCup and ninth in the U.S. Presidents Cup standings. The top 10 in the Presidents Cup standings after the Deutsche Bank Championship automatically qualify for the team.
Steve Stricker has won 12 times on the PGA TOUR.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- If Steve Stricker ends an 0-for-59 winless streak in the majors at the PGA Championship today, he'll become the second oldest major champion, as well.
Stricker's best finish in any of golf's four crown jewels came at the 1998 PGA Championship when Vijay Singh beat him by two strokes at Sahalee Country Club. That was one of 11 top-10s, with the most recent a tie for eighth at the U.S. Open.
Stricker will start the final round at 5 under, tied with Adam Scott who will join him at the first tee at 2:35 p.m. The two, who are playing in the third from last group, trail Jim Furyk by five strokes.
"There's a lot of great players up there on top," Stricker said. "Furyk's obviously playing well. Adam Scott is up there. It's going to be a lot of fun. We have got 18 holes left so there is a lot that can happen in that stretch of golf. Just have to be patient and go out there and hopefully get off to a good start and get right in the mix real early."
Stricker is 46 years, 5 months and 10 days old today so if he gets the job done, he would be the oldest player to win his first major since 1960. But Julius Boros is the oldest major champ in history -- he was 48 years, 4 months and 18 days old when he won the 1968 PGA Championship.
Old Tom Morris and Jack Nicklaus were also 46 when they won the 1867 Open Championship and 1986 Masters, respectively. But Stricker is two months older than Morris and two months and seven days older than Nicklaus.
Stricker's strategy for Sunday is to get off to a good start and assess the situation as the round progresses.
"If I can get an early birdie and get some momentum going and maintain that, which is difficult on a course like this, ... because there's usually a time or two you are going to hit it in the rough and par becomes a challenge," Stricker said. "(Sunday) hopefully everything goes well and I have a chance coming down the back nine."
Lee Westwood, with 62, currently leads the list of players who have made the most starts in a major without a victory. The 40-year-old starts the final round at 3 under and six strokes off the pace.
Miguel Angel Jimenez is second in that category with 61 while Sergio Garcia has played in 60 without a win.
Steve Stricker has also shot 63 at the PGA Championship. (Franklin/Getty Imagees)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Steve Stricker has been there, done that.
Two years ago, he was the one grinding out 63 at the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club two years ago. In fact, Stricker was so focused he didn't know the 10-footer for birdie he missed at the final hole was to set the major championship scoring record.
On Friday at Oak Hill the man who shot the 25th round of 63 in major history played with the man who would go on to shoot the 26th. And Stricker was able to enjoy watching Jason Dufner's bid a lot more than his own.
"It was a fun round of golf to watch Jason play," Stricker said. "He played flawlessly really all day. ... I was in that position a couple of years ago and, you know, there's something about that magical 63 mark to try to surpass. It was a lot of fun to see."
Dufner got things rolling when he holed a sand wedge from 105 yards for an eagle at the second hole. He added five birdies, the last courtesy of a 6-footer at the 16th hole, and had two chances for the elusive 62 -- leaving his 12-footer on the final hole a foot short of the cup.
Stricker knows how Dufner feels.
"Yeah, I literally didn't even think about the putt that I had on the last to break the mark," Stricker said. "I was just so engrossed in what I was doing and shooting the lowest score possible that I really didn't even pay attention to how many under I was and what I was shooting at the time.
"So I was able to kind of enjoy Dufner's more than I was able to enjoy mine. But it was tough to see him leave that last putt short."
Stricker wasn't surprised to see that 12-footer miss, though. After all, 96 players had teed off before them, and the greens, saturated by heavy morning rain, were a "little chewed up" he said.
"Any putt uphill into the grain became difficult because of all the heal prints and the marks on the greens because the greens were so soft from the rain," Stricker said. "I wish he would have gotten it to the hole and had a better chance at it."
Stricker, who trails Dufner by four after Friday's 67, said there was a lot of banter on the course. Dufner may appear to have ice water in his veins but Stricker, who has played on a Ryder Cup team with the Ohio native, knows what kind of a competitor he is.
"He was aware, for sure," Stricker said. "He's very calm. I'm sure he was churning on the inside. He just told me while we were signing our cards he was like, 'This is a lot for a Friday.'
"He hits some great shots when he had to. The putt that he hit at 17, I thought he made. I thought he hit that perfectly. I thought it was going to go to the right at the end and it kind of straightened out and went a little to the left at the end. He had two really good looks at it to break the record."
Matt Kuchar, who is tied with Adam Scott and Jim Furyk two shots off the pace, was playing immediately behind Dufner. So he and Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler had a bird's-eye view of the shot at history.
"It was really kind of cool," Kuchar said. "We had three of us on 18 tee kind of talking about the ramifications of what Jason Dufner in the group in front of us could do with a birdie on the last and set the all-time scoring record.
"We're sitting on 18 tee and watched Jason hit his approach shot from the fairway, knew he hit it close by the crowd's reaction. As we walked down to the fairway, we get a chance to watch his putt, all kind of hoping. And I know for me, it would have put him an extra shot ahead, but it would have been pretty cool to see a 62 posted as the lowest round ever in a major championship. It was kind of too bad that he missed it."
Furyk was six groups behind Dufner but he tracked the action on the leaderboards around the course.
"I knew he had 7 under," Furyk said. "I was on the 14th tee right behind 18 green when he hit that second shot. I could hear the roar and knew he had a big putt to shoot the lowest score in major championship history. So I was kind of pulling for him to be honest with you. That's a pretty good feat.
"I saw a tape of it when I was in the scoring tent. I realize he left the putt short, but great round. I guess, you are never surprised when conditions are good, great players find a way. Someone finds a way to shoot a low number.
"Today it happened it was a bunch of guys but Jason fired the best one."
Steve Stricker helped Tiger Woods with his putting on Monday. (Lecka/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PITTSFORD, N.Y. – The last time Steve Stricker gave Tiger Woods a putting lesson, Woods went on to win the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.
Fast forward to earlier this week at Oak Hill, where the two played a practice round together -- and where Stricker gave his longtime friend another tip.
“He trusts me enough where he wants me to look at his setup a lot,” Stricker said. “It’s very basic stuff all the time; his shoulder alignment has been a little left.”
Woods is coming off a runaway victory at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, where he was 11th in the field in strokes gained-putting and fifth in total putts. But majors have been a different story this year, especially on the weekend.
At The Open Championship, he was 29th in total putts. A month earlier at the U.S. Open, he was 53rd. Twice at Muirfield he had 33 putts in a round. At Merion, he took at least 32 putts three times. At Augusta, he ranked 43rd in putts per green in regulation.
“The frustrating part is I've been there and didn't win two of the tournaments that I was right there in,” Woods said. “One, I hit a flagstick (at Augusta) and I was leading the tournament and ended up getting obviously a penalty there, and that was a tough round on Saturday, but got it around and shot under par, and put myself there with a chance on Sunday and didn't get it done. Same thing at The Open.”
At one point during Monday’s practice round, the two stayed on the sixth green for roughly 15 minutes with Woods hitting more than 20 putts as Stricker looked on and the two chatted.
“I've actually got to flip it around because he feels everything in his left hand and I feel everything in my right hand, but we believe in how the blade swings and how it moves,” Woods said. “I wanted him to take a look at my angles of my shoulders and my arms, facial rotation, things of that nature.”
Because he has played with Woods so often, Stricker said it’s easy for him to spot when something is wrong in Woods’ stroke or setup.
“When I do, I can tell when something’s a little different,” Stricker said. “He takes that information and applies it right away starts believing in it and makes putt after putt after putt.”
Case in point: At Doral, Woods finished the week with just 100 putts, the fewest of any in his career.
So what else did they talk about?
“We talked chipping, putting, a little deer hunting,” Stricker said. “I’m trying to get him up there in the deer stand. He’s getting closer to doing it.”
This week Woods would gladly settle for the podium Sunday night.
By Craig DeVrieze, Special to PGATOUR.COM
SILVIS, Ill. – Steve Stricker is 100-under par at TPC Deere Run since 2009.
He wishes that were 105 under.
A winner of the John Deere Classic three times in succession from 2009-2011, Stricker caused a buzz around the place with his fifth birdie of the day midway through the final round.
At 16 under, he was three back of defending champion Zach Johnson and thinking about making it four John Deere trophies in five years.
A bogey at the par-3 16th stalled his charge and the 46-year-old Wisconsinite settled for a 5-under round of 66.
It wasn’t what he had in mind at day’s start, he said.
“I thought today I could shoot 61 or 60 like I have here in the past but you’ve got to do that without any mistakes,” he said. “I figured if I could get to 21, who knows.”
Didn’t happen. Now, the Stricker heads back to Wisconsin to celebrate his anniversary, but with a bit of angst over his decision at the beginning of the year to bypass this week’s Open Championship.
“I’m thinking that it wasn’t the smartest move maybe to miss the British Open but it’s my 20th anniversary this week and we have a family vacation planned with another family up north,” he said. “All good reasons to miss. I’ll be watching it intently and probably wish I’ll be there in some regard but I’m happy with my decision what I’m doing and I have been all year.”
Zach Johnson shares the lead at the John Deere Classic, with Steve Stricker not far behind. (Cohen/Getty Images)
By Craig DeVrieze, Special to PGATOUR.COM
SILVIS, Ill. – Hawkeyes communing with Fighting Illini is akin to dogs sleeping with cats in this Mississippi River border burgh. But Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker just don’t seem to know how not to get along.
At the John Deere Classic, ardent Iowa fan Johnson and Fighting Illini grad Stricker are favorite sons. Stricker – who also mixes Wisconsin roots into this muddled Big Ten picture – owned a piece of the TPC Deere Run leaderboard for the better part of four years before a balky driver and a charging Johnson stalled his bid for a JDC four-peat down the Sunday stretch last year.
Johnson, the defending champion who grew up from 90 minutes west of the Quad Cities, hasn’t let loose of the tournament lead since then.
Grouped with their 2012 Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III, Johnson and Stricker played side-by-side in the first two rounds of this year’s Deere affair. That could have been a combustible mix – if either of the favored JDC siblings contained an ounce of combustibility in their Big Ten DNA.
Thursday was Iowa Hawkeyes Day at TPC Deere Run.
Friday was Fighting Illini Day.
“Yeah, I got a lot of I-L-L chants and a big cheer when I birdied 17,” said Stricker, who donned his brightest orange shirt to note the occasion.
So did that stick in the craw of the Hawkeye guy?
“He was all right,” Stricker said. “He got a lot of Hawkeye love yesterday.”
Johnson at least tried to take the trash-talking bait when asked how those I-L-L chants struck him Friday: “I could fill in the blank with ‘a-n-n-o-y,’ but we won’t go there, will we?”
Well, technically, we just did. But nonetheless …
One thing that couldn’t be clearer is the level of admiration that Johnson, the 37-year-old whose nine career wins include the 2007 Masters, has for Stricker, who is nine years the Iowan’s senior and has three more wins on his resume.
“He is just a model of consistency,” Johnson said. “That’s the kind of guy you try to model your game after.”
Johnson especially wouldn’t mind being stricken with a case of Stricker’s famously effective putting stroke. And maybe he has been. In the midst of a subpar year, he came to TPC Deere Run ranked 101st in strokes-gained-putting. He is fifth this week.
“Ooh, that’s a good question,” Johnson said when asked if he putts better when he plays with a player who putts like Stricker. “Maybe. He just sets into it and it doesn’t look like he is going to miss. It’s fun to watch. Kind of gets you into that mode of trying to make putts yourself.”
Stricker, meanwhile, said it’s easy to feed off Johnson when he is playing well.
And especially here.
“Yeah, it’s fun,” he said. “He’s playing great. He obviously has a great feeling for this course, much like I do. It’s fun to play with him and it’s fun to feed off his energy and his crowd.”
The Hawkeye fan and the Fighting Illini will be separated in Saturday’s third round. Johnson, a co-leader at 12-under 130, will tee off an hour behind Stricker, who is three shots behind.
But given Stricker’s penchant for going low here – he had rounds of 63, 62, 61 and 60 while racking up his three straight wins – a final round reunion of these favorite John Deere Classic sons can’t be ruled out.
Maybe Sunday heat can bring this favored sibling rivalry to a boil.
Overnight co-leaders Zach Johnson and Camilo Villegas are already looking up the leaderboard and the morning wave hasn't even finished at TPC Deere Run.
Will they be able to make a run at the lead this afternoon? Here's a closer look at who and what to watch for this afternoon (all times ET):
Zach Johnson, 1:45 p.m.: The defending champion got of to a good start with a 64 in the opening round but will have to play catch up, which shouldn't be much of a problem. He's recorded 17 straight rounds in the 60s there and his last eight rounds there have been bogey free.
Steve Stricker, 1:45 p.m.: The three-time John Deere Classic champion continues to play well on a limited schedule, but he'll need something lower than another 67 to sniff the lead going into the weekend here.
Davis Love III, 1:45 p.m.: Two weeks ago, Love withdrew from the AT&T National with a hip injury after an opening-round 83. The following week he tied for ninth at The Greenbrier Classic. He's in decent shape again after a 67 Thursday.
Jordan Spieth, 2:25 p.m.: The 19-year-old is in danger of missing the cut after an opening-round 1-under 70. The projected cut is currently 2 under. It's already been a successful season for Spieth, however, who has locked up his card for next season.
Camilo Villegas, 2:45 p.m.: Like Johnson, Villegas will have some catching up to do despite opening with a 64. That said, the last time Villegas opened with a 64, he followed it with a 77 the next day and missed the cut at The Honda Classic earlier this year.