While Stricker is the reigning two-time champion of the John Deere Classic, his victory hangover has translated into finishes outside the top 50 at Turnberry (2009) and St. Andrews (2010).
“It’s difficult to two-peat, let alone put three of them together,” said Stricker, who also posted a T4 finish in 2004. “I think the expectation level is high when you win a tournament and you come back and you expect more of the things that you had there the previous year. And when they don’t fall into place, you may lose a little bit of confidence or that little bit of edge.
“Somebody can get hot, and they’ll go low, and you may not even have a chance even if you did play well. So there are a lot of things that have to fall into place to win once, let alone three times in a row.”
Few could be any hotter around TPC Deere Run the past two years. Stricker is a combined 46-under par, and he comes into this week having one of his better seasons. He has finished outside the top 20 twice in 11 starts, has four top-10 finishes and a win at the Memorial Tournament. He also finished T11 at the Masters and T19 at the U.S. Open.
Stricker’s career has been unique, to say the least. He has been voted PGA Tour Comeback Player of the Year on two occasions—and in back-to-back seasons (2006, 2007). He also has 10 PGA Tour wins and has top-10 finishes in each of the majors.
Through it all, Stricker has maintained an even keel.
“I don’t feel any different,” he said. “I really don’t try to think about it. I’m just doing my own thing. I go out there and try to play my own game, work at it like I do at home, and be prepared when I do go out there and play. I’m enjoying the ride. It’s been a great 5 1/2 years since I’ve made this turnaround, and I just keep pinching myself at times.”
Stuart Hall is editor of the Golf Press Association.