Steve Stricker returned to the scene of his winning putt at last year's John Deere Classic - and made it again!
During media day on Monday at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., Stricker again performed in the clutch as he tapped the 25-foot downhill putt from the back right fringe of the 18th green and watched it roll gently into the hole. A gathering of junior golfers - several of whom had tried the putt and missed - media, staff and board members cheered as the ball disappeared into the cup. Stricker emulated the fist pump he displayed last July.
"I watched them do it," Stricker said of the youngsters. "The putt I had last year went a little to the right; this one went to the left. I got to watch a lot of putts before I made mine."
When he returns to TPC Deere Run the week of July 9-15, Stricker will be trying to become only the fifth man in championship golf history to win four consecutive tournaments at the same course. The others were Young Tom Morris (British Open, 1868-70 - no event in '71 - and 1872), Walter Hagen (PGA Championship, 1924-27) and Gene Sarazen (Miami Open, 1927-30), and Tiger Woods (Bay Hill, 2000-2003 and Buick Invitational in San Diego, 2005-08.
They're calling it the "Stricker Slam."
"It's a unique opportunity," Stricker told reporters on Monday. "It's hard to do. It's hard to repeat let alone win for the third time...Just to win a golf tournament is hard let alone four times in a row. But I'm excited about the challenge, excited about the opportunity to try to do it. It would be a lot of fun. The anticipation for me is there already."
Although the winning putt gets a lot of attention, Stricker said it was the 184-yard 6-iron from the fairway bunker on No. 18 that immediately preceded it that was the shot of a lifetime. The ball was below his feet and had to carry the water on the left of the green.
"[The bunker shot] is at the top of my list," Stricker said. "It seems like a guy like Tiger does it when he wins every time he wins, or every other time. For me...it was a do-or-die situation. I made up my mind that I was going to get it back there [to the back pin position]...My caddie said why don't you just take a 7-iron and try to hit it in the short part of the green and try to get it up and down. I said, 'No, give me the 6, I'm going to try to get it all the way back there...I had it in my mind to try to make 4. To make that putt was icing on the cake. Yeah, the bunker shot was the tougher shot, probably, of the two."
Stricker said he looks forward to coming back to the John Deere Classic and he loves it.
"I mean, it's the Midwest," he said. "It's the type of golf course that I've grown up on. I can drive from home. It's comfortable surroundings. I'm comfortable here. I enjoy the course...I guess when you like to come to a place and you've had some success in the past and had good vibes going into the tournament, that shows a lot of what it can do for your game...I don't know what it is about here. I just enjoy coming here and enjoy the people and the tournament."