ERIN, Wis. — A total of 5 under par often wins the U.S. Open, and that is the number Steve Stricker vaguely had in mind at the start of the week at Erin Hills.
And that is what he shot.
Stricker, the Wisconsin native who made it through sectional qualifying to get here, didn’t come anywhere close to winning on Sunday, but he was glad to be part of the first U.S. Open to be played in his state.
“I don’t know if I have 14 under in my bag to play,” said Stricker, 50, who finished with a 69 and in a tie for 16th. “These guys play a different game. A 3-wood 300 yards yesterday for Justin Thomas. I don’t hit my driver 300 yards. These guys have a lot of firepower. This is the new age of golf. They bomb it. If they hit it crooked, they hit it again.
“They’ve got no fear and they’re gutsy players, and they’re little bulldogs and they’re just relentless. This course allows them to do that, wide fairways, so they can let it rip. It’s fun to watch, but it’s not a typical U.S. Open.”
That has been a source of considerable discussion all week, as Erin Hills yielded a record number of sub-par scores, a major record-tying 63 and double the number of players reaching double-digits under par than in all the previous U.S. Opens combined.
Still, Stricker said he hopes the U.S. Open returns.
“I would think they want to change a few things,” he said. “Maybe narrow the fairways a little bit. I’d like to see the fescue a little bit thinner and the fairways a little bit narrower, so it’s not a full shot penalty for hitting in the fescue, but it’s going to be harder to hit fairways. Some places it’s just too thick and too penal.
“But who knows, it would be great for them to come back here. We’ve got a Ryder Cup [at Whistling Straits] in 2020.”
And Stricker could very well be the U.S. Ryder Cup captain then. First, he’s got the U.S. Presidents Cup duties this year, and this coming week, he is the host for the PGA Tour Champions’ American Family Insurance Championship in Madison, Wisconsin.
Stricker said he is likely to skip the U.S. Senior Open, as he wants to concentrate on the regular PGA Tour. He is exempt for The Open next month and is hoping to qualify for the PGA Championship, as well.
“As long as I can get in them, I’ll play them,” he said. “This one was a challenge to get in. But I’m in the British [Open]. If I keep playing well enough, I’ll be in the PGA. So I’m excited about playing in all four of them this year. I would love to keep playing them.”
Stricker offers Erin Hills suggestions – ESPN