Steve Stricker in the mix at PGA Championship
LOUISVILLE, Ky.—Steve Stricker is going to the Ryder Cup next month at Gleneagles. There's still an outside chance he'll have his golf clubs.
Stricker is having his worst season in more than 10 years, part of that due to a creaky 47-year-old body, mainly because of his part-time schedule. He is No. 38 in the Ryder Cup standings, so far removed that he agreed to be an assistant under U.S. captain Tom Watson.
But it's not over yet.
Stricker made four birdies on his front nine before having to settle for a 3-under 68. But it put him at 5-under 139, only four shots behind Rory McIlroy. If he were to finish alone in second place, he likely would make the team.
“I would have to do something very special,” said Stricker, who has played on the last three American teams. “And I'm obviously going to try to do the best I can this weekend. But it really hasn't crossed my mind as a player just because I haven't played that much. I haven't played all that well this year and I'm just trying to have a good tournament here this week—try to finish the year off on a positive note.”
Watson wasn't so quick to rule him out.
“Strick has got game. If he should win here, there would be no question that he would be on the team rather than a vice captain—no question,” Watson said.
Watson said he hasn't ruled him out even if he doesn't qualify. There are two FedEx Cup playoff events before he makes his three captain's picks on Sept. 2.
“That's the magic date for me,” Watson said. “If he runs the tables and happens to win and things like that, I'd be a fool not to consider him.”
Stricker arrived at the 96th PGA Championship with a torn labrum in his left hip and no expectations.
After 36 holes, he's rethinking his goals.
“I hung in there,” Stricker said after playing in the intermittent drizzle at Valhalla Golf Club. “I'm happy with my position.
“I'm not too far away from the lead,” Stricker said. “But we all know who's leading.”
That would be Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, who fired a 67 and was at 9-under 133.
McIlroy, 25, is seeking his third consecutive victory, having won the British Open and World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational the last two weeks.
“Rory's tearing it up,” Stricker said. “The guy is playing really well. His swing and his confidence level look really good. He's driving it as good as I've seen anybody drive it in the game. When you can drive it 320 to 340 (yards) in the fairway, you've got a huge advantage.”