Sunday, June 5, 2011

Steve Stricker won the 2011 Memorial Tournament

Cheesehead native Steve Stricker had one of the most impressive stretches of golf spanning two rounds of a PGA Tour event in recent years early on at the 2011 Memorial, Jack Nicklaus' annual golf tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club.

Stricker started his second round on the back nine so he completed his second round on the front nine on Friday. Sticker's 17th hole of the day but actually the 8th hole of the course was a Par-3, 185-yard hole. Stricker hit a perfect shot to pull off one the hardest things in golf, a hole-in-one. Check out the video, hilarious call by the announcer.

That ace was just the beginning of something special. When Stricker teed it up on Saturday on the front nine he eagled the 2nd hole (a Par-4) by chipping in and the 5th hole (a Par-5) by canning a nice putt. Those three eagles gave Stricker three eagles in a seven hole stretch and put him 9-under for a 10 hole stretch spanning the end of his second round into his third round (scorecard).

Stricker led the Memorial Tournament by four strokes at the turn (nine holes to play) and looked like he was going to cruise to victory at Jack Nickalus' signature PGA Tour event. Unfortunately the tournament was halted due to a weather delay for two and a half hours. The lengthy weather delay seemed to help the field more than Stricker because when play resumed, Stricker's lead started to rapidly dwindle.

Stricker lead by three strokes with five holes to play. After bogeying the 15th hole (a Par-5), he only lead by two strokes with three holes to play. With such a small lead, Stricker scrambled the rest of the way. Consecutive sandy pars on the 16th and 17th hole, thanks to draining putts of 15 and 7 feet respectively, gave Stricker a two shot lead heading into the 18th hole. Stricker kept the wheels on the wagon just long enough to finish with a two-putt bogey to hold off Matt Kuchar and Brandt Jobe to win the 2011 Memorial by one stroke.

Stricker owned the front nine (20-under par) but struggled on the back nine (4-over par) all four days of the tournament. If Stricker only played the front nine he would have lapped the field but in golf tournaments you have to play all 18 holes all four days. Thanks in large part to being one the of best putters on the PGA Tour, Stricker managed to hang on to win.

Stricker pocketed a hefty $1.1 million for winning the 2011 Memorial, which put him over $30 million in career PGA Tour winnings. Money aside, winning The Memorial gave Stricker his 10th career PGA Tour win and helped him become the 4th ranked player in the world. That means that Stricker is currently the highest ranked American in the world for the first time in his career.

Despite a weather delay and lengthy par putts down the stretch, Stricker hung on to win the 2011 Memorial at Murfield Village. If you want to know why Stricker is arguably the most liked player on the PGA Tour, despite rooting for the Bears instead of the Packers, the highlight of the day for Stricker was shaking Jack Nicklaus' hand coming off the 18th green. People always talk about how money corrupts athletes but Steve Stricker is living proof that there are still a few good guys left in professional sports.

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