Steve Stricker played a well managed round of golf on championship Sunday. He managed his game well even though he got in a little trouble along the way. But the jams that he did get into, he got out them with just a blemish. No worse for wear. His friend and pairing mate Jerry Kelly, kept Stricker going with his unrelenting will to give up and just hand him the trophy. Stricker needed an eye opening moment when he saw his seven stroke lead, reduce to five on hole 10. The bogey at hole 10 ended his 57 bogey free play. That moment ignited a fire that brought home a championship.
Steve Stricker By The Numbers: Front Nine
On the first hole, Stricker’s tee shot landed right of fairway and in the rough. Despite not being on the fairway, he managed to put it on the green in two, and converted on a seven foot putt for birdie to move to -19.
Holes two through nine, he worked out 8 consecutive pars. Despite not having a great lye on hole three, Stricker drove the ball 212.1 yards on his second shot to leave a seven foot par attempt. Stricker’s putter was on fire , and his recycled clubs from 12 years ago were not going to slow down. Stricker exits the front nine at -19 and a seven stroke lead over Jerry Kelly.
Steve Stricker By The Numbers: Back Nine
To start the back nine, Steve opened with a booming 253.8 yard tee shot. He places it in the middle of the two bunkers on the fairway. The second shot with 162.4 yards to the cup, runs to the back of the green and into the fringe. From the fringe, Stricker two putts, and ends up with a two stroke exchange. Jerry Kelly tapped in for birdie to cut Stricker’s lead to five. The exchange of strokes gives Kelly a glimmer of hope as the made the turn.
Call the tenth hole the turning point on championship Sunday. After shooting par at the 11th hole. The play of the weekend was coming and no one knew it. Not even Stricker. His tee shot from the par 3 12 goes for 172 yards and right. From the fringe on his birdie attempt , Stricker rolls it for 45.9 feet to pay dirt. A miracle birdie to put him back at -19 and a six stroke lead. “ Nicki and I had been talking that we’ve been looking for a chip-in, and I said right before I chipped it, I said, I’m still looking for that chip-in, and she’s like, “I am, too.” So maybe the power of us both thinking about it, it came true.”
Stricker played cruise control golf from there. After par conversions on 13 and 14, Stricker’s tee shot from the 15th goes 276.3 yards into the left bunker. Leaving him a 126.6 yard second shot to the cup. Stricker blasts through the sand places it 12.6 feet from the cup for par. After par at 16, Stricker places a ginormous 295.8 yard tee shot, followed by a 214.3 yard blast that goes right and into the rough. Despite the aggravation, Stricker converted for par at 17 as well.
Victory At 18
A culmination of emotion from a four day U.S. Senior Open Championship plays out after four rounds, 72 holes of golf. A final two putt from 2.9 feet, Stricker picks up his ball, and tips his hat to the gallery. Stricker proceeds across the green to his wife (and his caddie), and gives her a kiss.
To The Victor, Goes The Spoils
For winning the U.S. Senior Open Championship Steve Stricker gets some pretty nice hardware. He was awarded a gold medal and the owner of Francis D. Ouimet Trophy for one year, along with a nice $700,000 purse for his hard work. Stricker will also receive an exemption into the 2020 U.S. Open Championship at Winged Foot Golf Club, as well as an exemptions into the next 10 U.S. Senior Opens.
Championship Press Conference With Steve Stricker
Moderator Opening Remarks: “It’s my pleasure to welcome Steve Stricker here into the media center. Steve is the 2019 U.S. Senior Open champion, rounds of 62, 64, 66 and 69, a 72-hole total of 261, and that breaks the championship record. The six-stroke win ties the largest margin of victory. He’s the fourth player to go wire to wire. His two bogeys tie the fewest in championship history, and the 57 consecutive holes without a bogey sets a new mark. That’s 14 more than the previous record.”
“Steve, simply put, what a performance. I’d love for you to sum it up and describe what it means to be a USGA champion and have your name on this historic trophy.”
Steve Stricker response: “Yeah, thank you. Yeah, what a special week. I told you all week, I kind of came here with a little chip on my shoulder from not winning last week. I felt like I had something to prove, and I just played some really, really good golf the first three days. Today was a little bit shaky at times, but what a great week. Had Nicki on the bag. My kids were here. Our family friend was here. Just a special course, special setup.”
“I never was able to win a USGA event in my career, whether it was in the amateur ranks or when I turned pro. Had some good U.S. Open finishes, but this is it. So it’s very special. Any time you can win a USGA event, I always held those to kind of the highest of tournaments that we play in, and it’s a great feeling to be able to hold that trophy and to be the Senior Open champion.”
Moderator remark: “You mentioned the U.S. Open. You’ll be going to Winged Foot next year for the U.S. Open by virtue of this win”
Steve Stricker response: “Oh, that’s right. I get in the regular U.S. Open now, too? Good deal. I didn’t even know that. Sweet, no more qualifying.”
“Are they back-to-back?”
Moderator response: “They are.”
Your wife, Nicki, on the bag, both your daughters here. What was it like, that walk up 18? Must have been obviously a very happy moment, an emotional moment for you. Tell us what was going through your mind walking up with Jerry Kelly up to the 18th green.
Steve Stricker response: “Yeah, it was a special moment. I told Jerry, I said, it’s awkward, we’re friends, we go back to junior golf. I want to beat his brains in out there, and he wants to do the same thing to me. But at the end of it all, we’re friends. I respect him. I love him and his family. So it was hard, especially the last two days.”
“But again, it provided me some motivation. He was the guy that won the tournament last week that I had the opportunity to win. And so, again, every time I looked at him, it provided me a little motivation to get it done.”
Shake Down The Thunder Sports Media Moment
Question: “We talked all week about the mystique of Notre Dame and its surrounding. Do you feel a little bit more part of it now with what you’ve gone through the last four days, the wire-to-wire victory?”
Steve Stricker response: “You know, yeah. It’s a beautiful campus. We came here four years ago to watch the University of Virginia basketball team play Notre Dame. We’re friends with Tony Bennett, and we were able to take in some of the campus life then. But more so this week. We were able to — we walked around campus yesterday, went in the Golden Dome building, we went to the Grotto. The registration was in the football stadium. We got down on the field, threw a couple passes. It was just a really special week.”
“The USGA did an unbelievable job here and made us feel welcome. The Warren people, the Warren family I should say, I met Bill earlier in the week, just really nice people, and they’ve got a wonderful course here that the university and everybody around can enjoy.”
Question: “I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but there was some pretty bad weather coming out of the Chicago area that kind of took a hard southwest turn, so the weather kind of played into your favor, as well.”
Steve Stricker response: “Yeah, I think this is one of the only events this year on the Champions Tour that we didn’t have a weather delay. The weather was great all week long. It was warm. The ball was flying. I haven’t played in this warm of weather all year, so it was good to feel loose. I felt like I was swinging at it a little bit more aggressively, and like I said, the ball was going.”
Shake Down The Thunder Sports would like to thank Dalton Tinklenberg for his wonderful photos from Saturday and Sunday. We would also like to thank the USGA Media Relations team, especially Brian DePasquale for welcoming us into our first golf writing experience. For more on the U.S. Senior Open Championship visit here.
Go Irish ☘⛳⚡