Published: Thursday July 12, 2012 MYT 10:28:00 AM
Stricker seeks fourth John Deere title in a row
SILVIS, Illinois - Steve Stricker goes for his fourth consecutive US PGA John Deere Classic title starting Thursday, the American veteran having already won once this year entering the $4.6 million tournament.
Stricker will play the first two rounds alongside Colombia's Camilo Villegas and compatriot Kyle Stanley, whom he beat last year by a stroke with a birdie on the 72nd hole at the TPC Deere Run layout.
"Just unbelievable," Stricker said. "To think that I won this three times in a row is beyond belief, really, to tell you the truth."
Stricker, 13th in the world rankings, won this year's season-opening Tournament of Champions in Hawaii back in January.
The event has traditionally struggled to land top talent as it is played one week ahead of the British Open, but organizers have in recent years added a jet plane to take players to Europe after the final round, boosting the turnout.
"It's a difficult time in the year for guys to commit to come and play, but more times it's getting to be where guys are coming here," Stricker said.
Now they are coming to try and dethrone Stricker as the king of Deere Run before he runs his win streak to four in a row.
"It's a unique opportunity," Stricker said. "It's hard to repeat, let alone win for the third time. I look forward to trying. It's going to be difficult as ever. Just to win a golf tournament is hard, let alone four times in a row.
"But I'm excited about the challenge, excited about the opportunity to try to do it. It would be a lot of fun."
Stricker says part of the reason for his success is the fact that the event has a small-town feel, located in the rural Quad Cities region of western Illinois and eastern Iowa, farming country in the central United States.
"It's Midwest. It's the type of golf course that I've grown up on. It's comfortable surroundings," Stricker said. "It's a special place.
"I guess when you like to come to a place and you've had some success in the past and had good vibes going into the tournament, that shows a lot what it can do for your game."
Stricker already felt like the streak was over last year before surprising even himself with a victory comeback.
"Last year coming down the stretch, I thought, 'Well, it's over. I'm kind of leaking oil,'" Stricker said. "Hit it in the bunkers and just not hitting the shots I needed to win, and then I ended up kind of stealing it away from Kyle Stanley."
Stricker has been a major contender but never broken through to take one of golf's elite crowns and at 45, he realizes that window is closing quickly.
"It's not life or death," Stricker said. "Obviously I'm 45, so that window of opportunity is dwindling. Nicklaus won when he was 46. I realize where I'm at. I also realize I've played some great golf over the last five, six years, won a lot of tournaments. That gives me confidence that I could still do it.
"I just have to put four good rounds together, get the putter going a little bit, see what happens." - AFP