On Thursday, Steve Stricker begins his historic quest to become only the fifth player in championship golf history to win the same event four consecutive times.
Last week at the Greenbrier Classic, he played in the same group with the only living member that exclusive club: Tiger Woods.
"I talked to him about it," Stricker said Wednesday. "And, you know, in his own little way - I think we all know what his way is - he told me to get it done...He said some nice things, but also made a point...he threw me a jab saying only one of us has won four tournaments in a row. So he gets his point across, but yet he was really nice and tried to provide some support for me to do it again."
Several weeks ago, when he came to TPC Deere Run to meet the media and promote the 42nd edition of PGA, Stricker was concerned that he wasn't putting well. Since then, though, he says he has improved.
"I think I'm progressing," Stricker said. "I don't know if I'm really there yet but I feel like I'm moving in the right direction. I've spent a lot of time working on my putting and I feel like I'm getting a little bit better. I showed some signs last week of doing that better."
Stricker's driving and iron game has been solid. He won the season opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. But his putter has been uncharacteristically uncooperative.
"I'm hitting the ball okay," he said. "It's just getting it in the hole, it seems like recently, that's been a bit of a struggle. But I put four solid rounds together last week and, hopefully, get that putter going here this week because that's what it's going to take, is good ball striking and a hot putter, because the scores are going to be good."
Stricker said he is in good health after enduring a neck injury that sapped the strength in his left arm.
"[The neck] been real good," Stricker reported. "Still doing all my exercises and taking care of it, and it seems to be pretty stable at the moment. I've regains some strength in my left side, so things seem to be good."
Winning the John Deere Classic would also help Stricker in his pursuit of a spot on this year's U.S. Ryder Cup team, which will face Europe later this year at Medinan Country Club outside Chicago. He currently is ranked 13th on the points list. The top eight get in automatically. Team captain Davis Love has four picks, and most assume Stricker would be one of them, thanks to his chemistry in partnering with Woods.
"I really want to be a part of that team, right here in Chicago," Stricker said. "Right down the road [from here]...I was on the team over in Wales [in 2010] when we got edged out, so it would be nice to be a part of that again and try to win it back...That's why I added an event last week before this one, to try to not only start preparing, getting my game ready, but to get some points for the Ryder Cup."