With a chance to join a fraternity of just four golfers who have won the same tournament four years in a row, Steve Stricker asked one of them for advice on how to wrap up another John Deere Classic.
“He told me to get it done,” Stricker told reporters Wednesday about the words of wisdom that Tiger Woods shared with him when the two played together in the first two rounds of last week’s Greenbrier Classic. “He said some nice things, but he also ... threw me a jab, saying, ‘Only one of us has won four tournaments in a row.'"
Should the 45-year-old Wisconsin Cheesehead, who’ll tee off Thursday at 1:45 p.m ET on a TPC Deere Run course he has virtually owned over the years, earn his fourth straight title at the unofficially named “Steve Stricker Invitational,” he would join Woods, Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and Young Tom Morris in the record books. Woods, however, holds the distinction of being the only golfer to accomplish the four-peat twice -- at the Arnold Palmer Invitational from 2000 through 2003, and at the Farmers Insurance Open between 2005 and 2008.
Stricker was well aware that achieving the feat would be immensely difficult -- the odds against him winning ran from 156-1 to 592,000,000-1, according to PGATour.com’s Craig DeVrieze -- but said he had not ruminated about it to any great degree.
“I know it’s going to be difficult. I know it’s going to be a big challenge,” Stricker said. “I know the four guys that have done it, and it's a pretty rare thing in our sport. But I haven't thought about it, you know, a tremendous amount of time.”
If Stricker -- whose laid-back approach could have earned him the moniker “The Big Easy” if Ernie Els had not already laid claim to it -- felt any pressure to capture his fourth straight John Deere victory, he certainly did not show it. In fact, the 12-time tour winner said he was rather relaxed about the the whole thing.
“I'm not one of those guys who really looks ahead. I kind of try to stay as close to the present moment as I can, I guess -- in the golf game, at least -- and try to take one thing at a time, and so I really don't look ahead too much,” said Stricker, who cruised to a three-stroke victory in 2009, won by two shots in 2010 and clinched last year’s title by one shot with an improbable birdie on the 72nd hole. “It should be fun.”