Steve Stricker has been the highest-ranked American player in the world rankings since his win at the Memorial Tournament a month ago. Now, with another win under his belt at last week's John Deere, the Wisconsin native needs to work on how he can parlay his momentum into his first major.
Stricker comes into this week's Open Championship having won the Deere for the third consecutive time. But the wins have done little to help him capture the Claret Jug in the past.
Since winning the John Deere, Stricker has struggled the following week across the pond. In 2007 at Carnoustie and 2008 at Royal Birkdale, the Wisconsin native finished 8th and 7th respectively.
In the last two years, Stricker has finished 52nd at Turnberry and 55th at St. Andrews.
"I'm going to change that this week," Stricker said of his record when playing the week before at the John Deere. "I wouldn't trade winning John Deere for coming over here early and trying to prepare. I think those have been some great tournaments for me and it gives me a lot of confidence."
Coming in with his game intact, Stricker is spending the limited time he has learning about the course, which he has never played on before in an Open Championship.
"You don't come over here looking for your game," Stricker said. "You just got to go with it."
Stricker's game is like most Americans', hitting a high ball and forcing it to stop on a dime. At the Open Championship, especially with 15-20 mph winds predicted most of the week, the ground becomes your friend.
Can Stricker do that is the question.
"I can knock the ball down, drive it down," Stricker said. "I'm not afraid to play in the wind. It's just a challenge to get your mindset totally different on a regular basis and to play it in two and half days is a big challenge."
The local bookies have Stricker as a 33-1 shot to win his first major.
Stuart Hall is editor of the Golf Press Association.
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