Steve Stricker, fresh off a win (with partner Bo Van Pelt) at Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade’s charity golf tourney, headlines this week’s PGA Tour event at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill.
Stricker, a three-time winner of the John Deere Classic, will go for No. 4 in five years, which would earn him a ticket to next week’s British Open. With Sunday’s victor eligible for the charter flight that’s standing by to whisk Open Championship contestants off to Muirfield, the 46-year-old, 12-time tour winner would have to decide if the trans-Atlantic trip would disrupt his semi-retirement.
"I think I missed the deadline to send in my entry for the British," Stricker, who has whittled his schedule down to some 11 tourneys this season, told reporters after finishing T8 at the U.S. Open at Merion last month. "So I won't be going over there."
Stricker cut back on playing time to spend more time with his family, but made sure to put this week’s event on his calendar. Not only is the Illinois venue close to his Madison, Wis., home, but he has a terrific track record on the D.A. Weibring-designed layout and enjoys enthusiastic backing from fans who appreciate his University of Illinois pedigree.
“It's always fun to come here. And I get a lot of support here, and kind of been adopted by the local community here as one of their own,” Stricker said on the eve of last year’s John Deere tilt. “It's a truly home game for me.”
Stricker, for whom this week’s contest will be his eighth official event of the year, may change his mind about going to Scotland should he finish first at Deere Run. But chasing that elusive first major title does not hold the allure for him that it did in his younger -- and busier -- days.
For sure, he was within striking distance at Merion when he started the final round in a tie for second. A triple-bogey 8 after hitting two balls out of bounds on the second hole, however, put him out of the running early and he ended up sharing eighth place.
“It was a tough day,” Stricker said after carding a 6-over 76 in the finale. “I'm not over this yet, but it won't take me long to get over this. Golf is not the thing in my life as it once was. That was the reason why I scaled back.
“So I'm excited to go home . . . and get some time away again and get ready and come back.”
Welcoming Stricker on his return to competition will be, among others, defending champion Zach Johnson; world No. 10 Louis Oosthuizen; 2011 PGA winner Keegan Bradley; and 2001 British Open champ David Duval, who’s playing on a sponsor exemption.