John Deere Classic Media Director
Three-time John Deere Classic champion Steve Stricker (2009-’11) will be back at TPC Deere Run next month, but not before he plays in his 20th U.S. Open this week at Erin Hills Golf Club in his home state of Wisconsin.
Stricker had to get into the field through sectional qualifying last week after the U.S. Golf Association denied his request for a special exemption based on his 12 PGA TOUR victories, a T-4 finish at last year’s British Open (which would’ve gotten him in in past years), multiple Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup team appearances, and, oh yeah, he lives about 90 minutes south of the golf course and is a hero in the Badger state.
“I was fine with [not getting an exemption], I really was,” Stricker said Tuesday during his pre-tournament news conference. “But then as it kept going on, I was like, you know, I really want to play here. This is our first U.S. Open.
“Then I had more and more people come up to me and say, ‘Why aren’t you in?’ And pretty soon it became a little chip on my shoulder that I had to work a little bit harder to get in.”
That he did.
The former University of Illinois golfer shot 10-under par and was the medalist (first place finisher) at the Memphis qualifying site. Made him feel pretty good. Maybe even vindicated.
“After the qualifier, that was pretty sweet because I earned my way in,” Stricker said. “I feel like I belong here…If someone would have given me a sponsor spot, I would have felt like I owed somebody something.”
Stricker said he didn’t just come here to be a “ceremonial” golfer. He came to compete, as he did last year at the British Open.
“My goal is to get into contention and see what happens,” Stricker said.
Needless to say the entire states of Wisconsin, Illinois, and all his John Deere Classic fans will be rooting for him.