Stricker contending; Ryder Cup spot still possible


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Maybe Steve Stricker accepted that assistant captain gig a bit too soon.

The 47-year-old opened his PGA Championship with rounds of 69-68 to sit comfortably inside the top 10 heading into the weekend.

At No. 39 in points, Stricker can qualify on his own with a victory this week at Valhalla. Even a runner-up finish (worth $1.08 million) might be enough to move him inside the top nine, so long as none of the other challengers also make a big move.

In two days, the conversation about Stricker has shifted from what he brings as an assistant to whether he could fill both roles – as both assistant and player.

“Strick has got game,” captain Tom Watson said. “If he wins there should be no question he’d be on my team. I’d be a fool not to consider him.”

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But even Stricker knows it’s a long shot. That’s why he accepted the job, because he thought he was at a different phase of his life now. He said Friday that he would “have to do something very special” over the weekend. His best career finish in a major was at the 1998 PGA, where he finished second.

“It’s going to sting, I’m sure, when I’m over there as an assistant captain and watching the guys and wishing I was a part of the playing part of the team,” he said. “I’ll cherish the moment of just being a part of it in any way, shape or form. Hopefully I can help out a little bit.”