With the benefit of hindsight, it wasn’t all that surprising that Steve Stricker was scrambling his heinie off and doing his best merely to hang on in the waning moments of the Memorial Tournament last year.
Stricker made a bunch of clutch par saves down the stretch to win at Muirfield Village for the first time last spring, taking the road less traveled a few times on the inward nine and beating Matt Kuchar and Brandt Jobe by a stroke.
In one of the more incredible stats of the star-stacked event, Stricker played the front nine 20 under for the week, compared to 4 over on the back nine, which was certainly underscored by his play in the final round, when he shot 30-38.
The back nine was much more of a fight, and on the final day, Stricker had to endure a two-hour rain delay while holding a three-stroke lead with just over five holes left to play. When it got wobbly after the restart, his trusty putter once again bailed him out.
He made a 15-footer at the 16th and a seven-footer at the 17th to save par, allowing him to play the 18th hole conservatively with a two-shot lead. His bogey on the 72nd didn’t matter.
“I feel good when I’ve got the putter in my hand,” Stricker said.
There’s the understatement of a career, huh?
His ability to roll the rock aside, where did Stricker truly win it? No doubt on the par-3 eighth hole, where he had an ace and three birdies. That’s about as perfect as a guy can play a par-3 hole for any week.