U.S. Open: Why a win for Steve Stricker would be a great thing

Apr 7, 2017; Augusta, GA, USA; Steve Stricker after putting on the 2nd green during the second round of The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 7, 2017; Augusta, GA, USA; Steve Stricker after putting on the 2nd green during the second round of The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports /

Steve Stricker is widely known as one of the nicest guys in golf, but he’s yet another great player who is majorless. After qualifying for the U.S. Open, does he have a shot at Erin Hills?

The 117th U.S. Open field is almost complete and to the delight of many golf fans, Steve Stricker is in. Stricker, who earned his tee time at Erin Hills at the Memphis qualifier, is one of the best currently-active players not to have won a major championship. We say this about a lot of players, but Stricker is one of the elite, with 22 professional wins, including 12 on the PGA TOUR.

The fact that Stricker also is a Wisconsin native will make him a home-state hero at the 117th U.S. Open. Stricker’s best finish in a major came at the 1998 PGA Championship where he finished in second.

Although this was 18 years ago, he recently had a strong finish at the 2016 Open Championship at Royal Troon, where he finished in solo fourth. However, like the entire field, Stricker was chasing Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson, who were miles ahead.

Stricker has two top-five finishes in the U.S. Open specifically, in both 1998 and ’99. He had a nice top -10 finish at Merion in 2013 but hasn’t participated in the last two years.

Now, Stricker will have a chance to show that he still has what it takes to capture his first major championship. Many players have won their first major later in their career, and we’ve seen it recently with both Sergio Garcia and Stenson.

As a native son, Steve Stricker is a fan favorite in Wisconsin and, being a University of Illinois alum, he’s also popular in the Land of Lincoln as well. More broadly, however, the golf world knows him as one of the nicest guys on tour, and although there are a ton of class acts, Stricker is one that stands out.

Despite the all-around young talent, Stricker is one of the veterans who continues to stay consistent on the PGA TOUR.

Steve Stricker has two technical skills that can give him the edge, his deadeye accuracy and putting. This will be in his favor, as Erin Hills requires some solid accuracy off the tee.

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Stricker is among the best players in the world when it comes to accuracy; he ranks first on the TOUR in driving accuracy. So he certainly wouldn’t have much problem hitting those fairways and avoiding that pesky Erin Hills rough.

On top of that, he’s also still a very good putter, especially from under 10 feet, where he ranks first on the TOUR in putting from five and six feet. We may overlook the shorter putts, but they prove crucial, especially to avoid three putts. At the U.S. Open, where greens can be tough, Stricker’s sniping ability with the putter could be a huge advantage. He’s also terrific from 10 feet, ranking seventh in the world in that category. So if he can nail those greens from the fairway, he’ll have excellent opportunities at birdies.

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Not only is Stricker statistically sound, he has played some solid golf recently. He has finished in the top 20 in three tournaments this season, including tying for 16th at the Masters Tournament. More recently, his seventh-place finish at the Dean & Deluca Invitational is a good look at his solid consistency.

It will be an uphill battle for Stricker, but, with such solid play later in his career, he’ll have a great chance at grabbing his first major. This, even with today’s rich, young talent, as Stricker quietly continues to play as well as many others.

If he manages to pull it off, it would be the sixth straight major where the winner has captured his first big title. Coming off a top-five finish at The Open last year, there’s no better time than now to grab his first major at the U.S. Open in his home state.

Next: U.S. Open final sectional qualifier results

How do you feel about Steve Stricker’s chances after qualifying for the U.S. Open? With many golfers breaking major droughts, is Stricker next? Let us know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @ChiGolfRadio