CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Steve Stricker had to clean out his locker and head home early after missing the cut in the PGA Championship at Hazeltine. That was in 2009. And it was on his mind Friday at Quail Hollow when he was outside the cut line and running out of holes.
“It was on my mind today to play this weekend,” he said. “I wanted to be around this weekend.”
He followed with two 3-woods that led to easy birdies, and Stricker shot a 1-under 70 that will allow him to make the cut. That means the 50-year-old Stricker has now gone eight consecutive years without missing a cut in the majors.
His 3-wood off the 14th tee reached the green about 18 feet away. He missed the eagle putt. On the par-5 15th hole, Stricker drilled a 3-wood up the hill and onto the green about 20 feet away. He missed that eagle putt, too.
Stricker had another birdie with a 7-iron into the par-3 17th, and then dropped a shot on the 18th from the bunker.
He hasn’t played every major in every year since that missed cut at Hazeltine. Stricker went a couple of years skipping the British Open because he was trying to reduce his schedule and that’s generally the week of his wedding anniversary.
At age 50, and Presidents Cup captain of the U.S. team, he’s getting busy again.
His wife, Nicki, is caddying for him at Quail Hollow. Both daughters have been traveling with him this summer, and Stricker used the British Open for a father-daughter trip with Bobbi Maria, who starts her sophomore year at Wisconsin in a few weeks.
“I’m enjoying it,” he said. “Nicki and the kids have been out with me practically every week, especially this summer and even some during school. We took our youngest out of school, home schooled her on the road when we were out. So I’ve played a lot more.”
Tiger Woods went nine straight years making the cut – 38 straight majors dating to the 1996 Masters – though he played all four of them each year (and won 10 of them before missing his first cut). Stricker was quite satisfied making his 26th cut in a row.
Tough point for Points
The closing stretch at Quail Hollow punished D.A. Points. He was 5 under, at the time just one shot off the lead, when he came to the 16th hole. Two holes and two double bogeys later, Points tumbled down the leaderboard.
On the 16th, he drove into the left rough and played out to far to the right, leaving him a bad angle. He hit wedge to 25 feet, but rolled the downhill putt about 6 feet by and missed that one coming back.
And then he headed to the par-3 17th, which played only 177 yards because of the front pin tucked over the bunker.
“I was in between clubs,” Points said. “I’m trying to chip a 7-iron and stopped on it and pulled it and it went in the water.”
Even so, he’s trying to remind himself this has been a good year. Points won the Puerto Rico Open to get a two-year exemption, and he has done well enough the rest of the season to make it back to the PGA Championship for the first time since 2013 at Oak Hill.
Fox remains in prowl
Ryan Fox caught Quail Hollow before the rain and he turned in a 66 to go from a short week at his first PGA Championship to 1-under 141 going into the weekend at Quail Hollow.
“Pretty bloody happy, to be honest,” the 30-year-old Kiwi said.
Fox hit only three fairways in the opening round and shot 75. He hit 10 fairways on Friday, and that was all the difference. It looks as though it could have been lower if he had made a few more birdie chances from the 10-foot range, and a 5-foot eagle putt he missed on No. 7. But he wasn’t about to be greedy.
“Every hole around here, you’re just happy to take a par, and some of those short putts, you’re almost not trying to make,” he said. “They are so quick. You can knock it 4 or 5 feet by and three-putt really quickly.”
South Carolinan at heart
Kevin Kisner was born in Aiken, South Carolina, and now lives off the 17th fairway at Palmetto Golf Club.
But he has reason to feel like a hometown favorite at Quail Hollow.
His parents grew up in Charlotte, so this was almost a second home when Kisner was growing up.
“I’ve spent every Thanksgiving and Christmas in Charlotte from childhood to marriage,” he said. “Been here a ton. Got a lot of ties to Quail Hollow – brother-in-law’s father is a founding member here. We’ve spent a lot of time in Charlotte. My 93-year-old grandmother still lives here by herself.”
The decision to live in Aiken was easy.
“When I was playing the minitours and I was broke, that’s the only place I could afford to buy a house and I went back there,” he said. “I just love it. I have a core group of friends that we hang out with that don’t pester me about golf and we hang out and have a couple beers on the back porch. That’s what I love about it.”
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