There may not be a more reliable, consistent swing on the PGA Tour than the one belonging to Steve Stricker. First in putting this year, second in greens in regulation, first in sand saves, Stricker is the last guy anyone would expect to go off the rails in a major tournament.
But that’s exactly what happened on the first three holes Sunday at the U.S. Open.
One shot out of the lead when play began, Stricker sliced his tee shot out of bounds on the par-5 second hole for triple-bogey 8, then added another bogey to fall out of contention. He wound up with a 6-over-par 76 to finish tied for eighth.
“Starting 4-over after three holes really wasn’t what I had in mind,” he said. “I didn’t feel nervous. I had a good warm-up session. I felt good (and) was excited for the day. Just the nature of the game, I guess. It puts you in place rather quickly at times.”
Stricker, 46, has come under scrutiny this year for choosing to cut back his schedule significantly to spend more time with his family. He still winters in Arizona, but spends his summers in Madison, Wis., and has often talked about family activities he’s enjoyed this year. This week’s tournament was only his fourth of the year, but he’s placed in the top 10 in every one.
“Golf is not the thing in my life it once was, (and) that’s the reason I scaled back,” he said.
Ace for Stefani: PGA Tour rookie Shawn Stefani, 31, scored the only hole-in-one of the tournament, using a 4-iron to ace the 246-yard, par-3 17th.
The ball hit in deep grass to the left of the green, swung right onto the green and then rolled some 50 feet straight into the cup. After retrieving the ball, Stefani kissed the grass where the ball first hit.
“I was actually trying to hit the left side of the green and then cut it,” he said. “Then I kind of pulled it. Honestly, I’ve seen a bunch of balls (this) week kind of not kick to the right, and I was really surprised to see it kick.
“And then it was rolling and I was like, ‘Well, this could be good.’ When it went in I was just super-excited because it’s the first hole-in-one I’ve had in a tournament.”
McIlroy shows temper: Rory McIlroy showed a bit of temper after hitting a bad shot at No. 11, when he took the iron he hit, put it between his legs and put his full weight on it, bending it. Having altered the shape of the club improperly, he thus rendered it unusable for the rest of the day. Making matters worse, he scored an 8 on the short par-4.
“I had just hit a bad tee shot into the creek there, and then … what you don’t want to do is follow one mistake with another, and that’s what I did,” he said. “And obviously I got a bit frustrated there. It’s a hole you want to take advantage of, to at least give yourself a birdie chance, and you walk off with a quad (quadruple bogey) and it’s not very good.”
McIlroy, the 2011 Open champion and 2012 Player of the Year who has no wins on tour this year, shot 76 for a four-round total of 294, 14 over par, to tie for 41st.
Two-hole meltdown: For Sergio Garcia, the difference between winning and a tie for 45th, which is where he finished, came down to the 14th and 15th holes.
Garcia had a triple-bogey 7 on No. 14 Sunday, where he had a double-bogey Thursday and a bogey Friday. At the 15th he had a quadruple-bogey 8 on Thursday and a 10 on Saturday. Add them up and he was plus-16 for those two holes, and plus-15 for the tournament. Pars on those two holes would have left him with a winning score of 1-under.