Steve Stricker ready for ‘good test’ at Greenbrier Classic

CHIP ELLIS | Gazette
Steve Stricker is making his second appearance at the Greenbrier Classic in three years. His wife Nicki will caddie for him again.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Even with a limited schedule, Steve Stricker is making his second Greenbrier Classic appearance in three years and, just like the first time, his wife Nicki will be his caddie this week.

Stricker’s decision to play the Greenbrier Classic was made late, and his normal caddie, Jimmy Johnson, had already committed to caddying for Chris Kirk this week.

Nicki was on the bag for Stricker full time from 1994-1997 and again in 2001, but since she’s made occasional appearances and it’s something they both enjoy.

“It’s just fun to have her out there,” Stricker said. “She’s my best friend, really. We’ve always gotten along really well on the golf course, so it’s nice to do it once in a while. She said to me this week it’s like she’s never left.”

This will be just the 11th PGA Tour start for Stricker this year and his game has started to come around as of late, highlighted by a tie for sixth at the Memorial on June 1.

Stricker said with his wife on the bag the week it will be a bit more casual, though he could be looking for something big to happen.

Stricker is leaning toward not playing in the British Open, which will be held at Royal Liverpool July 17-20.

But he said that could change if he can put something together at this week’s Classic and next week at the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill.

The world’s 18th-ranked golfer sits at No. 40 in American Ryder Cup points, but if he climbs significantly over the next couple weeks, Stricker may just be in the field at The Open after all.

“It will be a last-minute decision, probably,” Stricker said. “If I play really well, I’ll go. I guess the only thing that would sway me to go is if I play really well and make some good Ryder Cup points and I move up that list. Right now I’m pretty far down that list, but if I do something special here this week or next week and get a lot more points then I would probably go.”

Stricker recently helped design a new outdoor practice facility at his alma mater, the University of Illinois. That complex is expected open this fall.

“It’s just getting started and it’s an exciting time for U of I golf,” Stricker said. “It’s going to add a lot to that program. It’s just going to finish off the product that’s already good and make it a first-class place.”

Stricker finished tied for 22nd at 8 under at the Greenbrier Classic in 2012, and whether or not he can make something big happen on the Old White TPC this week remains to be seen.

But on Wednesday, Stricker praised the golf course and said it provides a fair challenge for all of the players.

“I don’t know if it favors any type of golfer here,” Stricker said. “I don’t think it favors a bomber. I don’t think it favors a short hitter. I think you’ve got to hit it straight.

“It’s going to take a well-rounded player playing at the top of his game this week. You’re not going to fake it around here at all, I don’t think. It’s a good course and it’s a good test.”

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