In the 30 years from 1971 to 2000, Americans won all but three U.S. Open golf tournaments. In the 10 years from 2001 to 2010, they won only four, with Tiger Woods claiming two (in 2002 and 2008). To some, this is a welcome indication that golf, thanks in large part to Woods' global brand, has exploded in popularity around the world.
But Tiger, who has struggled with his game since being exposed as a serial womanizer in 2009, won't be in the U.S. Open field at Congressional Country Club outside Washington, D.C., this weekend. That leaves Madison's Steve Stricker, currently the top American on the World Golf Ranking at fourth, as one of the favorites in what many are calling a wide-open field.
Stricker has four top-10 finishes in 10 tournaments this year. He has one win, at the Memorial two weeks ago, where he was the only player to break 70 on all four days. He's the PGA Tour's second most accurate putter this year and is averaging nearly four and a half birdies per round, fourth on tour.
It's easy for Madisonians to root for our homie, but the rest of the golf world is coming around too, fueled by stories about Stricker's nice-guy reputation. Indeed, some point to his affable personality and tendency to cry after victories as signs he doesn't possess the killer instinct necessary to claim a major title.
I believe winning a golf tournament has much more to do with accuracy and consistency, both hallmarks of Stricker's game.