Stricker denied special exemption to US Open in Wisconsin

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Steve Stricker always thought it was a long shot, and he recently was reminded that the USGA is tight when it comes to special exemptions for the U.S. Open.

''I wrote them quite a while back and asked for one, and they politely called me and declined,'' Stricker said.

The U.S. Open will be played in Wisconsin this year for the first time, June 15-18 at Erin Hills, a little more than an hour east of where Stricker lives in Madison. Stricker is a 12-time winner on the PGA Tour who reached as high as No. 2 in the world.

He didn't think that was enough to warrant a special exemption, but his brother-in-law and agent, Mario Tiziani, told him it was worth a shot.

The U.S. Open gave an exemption last year to two-time champion Retief Goosen. Before that, it gave exemptions to Vijay Singh and Tom Watson in 2010 at Pebble Beach. The last player awarded an exemption without having won a major? That would be Aaron Baddeley in 2000 when he was a 19-year-old amateur at Pebble Beach.

Stricker, the U.S. captain for the Presidents Cup this year, still hopes to be at Erin Hills.

He's just trying to figure out the best path.

Stricker turned 50 in February and has been splitting time on both tours. He has top 10s in his three starts on the PGA Tour Champions, including a runner-up finish to Tom Lehman in Arizona. He tied for 16th in the Masters earlier this month, his best finish in four starts on the PGA Tour.

If nothing else, Stricker has entered U.S. Open sectional qualifying in Tennessee. That's where he played a year ago, missing out on qualifying by one shot. But at No. 94 in the world and the bare minimum divisor because of his limited schedule, he still can reach the top 60 by May 22 or by the Monday of the U.S. Open.

Stricker is playing the Zurich Classic this week with Jerry Kelly (they tied for eighth last week at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf), which won't help his cause toward the U.S. Open because no world ranking points are awarded.

After a week off, he will be at The Players Championship and then the Regions Tradition, the first of five majors on the PGA Tour Champions. And then he's undecided. The following week is the Senior PGA Championship, which is the same week as Colonial.

''I'm leaning toward Colonial,'' Stricker said. ''I still want to be relevant. I can still compete out there, it's a good course for me and I won there.''

Stricker is new to this 50-and-older circuit and still trying to figure out the importance of its five majors. He would like to win the Senior PGA or any other senior major, although it's not quite the same as a regular major.

''And that's why I'm having a hard time,'' he said. ''It's a major out there, and I feel like it's an important tournament. But I feel like Colonial is important, too. And I'm feeling that pull to the PGA Tour, and that's the dilemma I've been having. And I haven't come up with any good solutions.''

Whatever he decides, Stricker said he plans to be at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, which follows the U.S. Open qualifier. He also is on the fence about Memorial, where he is a past champion. To play Muirfield Village, however, would be five straight tournaments - six if he finds his way to the U.S. Open.


SERGIO AND PADRAIG: It's only fitting that Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia would make amends at a wedding.

Harrington beat Garcia in a playoff for his first major, in 2007 at the British Open, and he beat Garcia again in the PGA Championship a year later. Garcia finally captured his first major this year at the Masters in a playoff over Justin Rose.

Harrington was on an Irish radio program talking about Garcia's emotion on the 18th green at Augusta National when he referred to the Spaniard as a ''sore loser'' during their battles a decade ago.

Both were invited to Rory McIlroy's wedding over the weekend. They ran into each other almost immediately, and Harrington said both came out in a better place.

''Clearly, there was a bit of an elephant in the room with what I said, and we have decided that we look at our similarities and the good in each of us, rather than any other way,'' Harrington said at an R&A media conference Tuesday. ''So we are in a great place. If anything, it's worked out so much for the better. Literally, the first person I met (at the wedding) was Sergio. It was something that needed to be done straightaway, and Sergio made it very easy.''


JUST A COLLEGE KID: ANA Inspiration winner So Yeon Ryu said some of her best times were in the classroom, even when she was winning LPGA majors.

Ryu was a junior at Yonsei University in South Korea when she won the 2011 U.S. Women's Open, the most prestigious event in women's golf. She still stayed in school, bringing her school work on the road the following year when she was LPGA rookie of the year.

The best part was being just another student, not a world-class golfer.

''The 18-year-old kids don't know a lot about golf in Korea. They were just friends,'' she said. ''But their parents were fans of me. Back then, so many of my friends would say: `Why do my parents like you? You must be famous. Why are you sometimes on TV?' They never judged me. They never see me as a professional golfer. They were just really great friends.''

She graduated in February 2013 with a degree in sports business.


STILL SEARCHING: In some respects, Kevin Chappell got off easy. It took him only 180 starts to win his first PGA Tour event.

Bobby Wadkins played 715 times on the regular tour without ever winning.

Chappell's one-shot victory in the Valero Texas Open led to questions about who was the best player without a PGA Tour victory, which soon turned into an assessment of raw ability, which soon became pointless.

By sheer numbers, Brett Quigley is at 407 career starts, while Briny Baird is at 379 starts.

Brian Davis has 346 starts and leads the career money list among players without an official victory. Davis has earned $13,295,212. That places him one spot ahead of Baird on the career money list, and right behind Baird is Jeff Overton.

Overton has 293 starts without a victory, though he holds one distinction over the others: He remains the only American to qualify for a Ryder Cup team without ever having won on the PGA Tour. Boom, baby.


DIVOTS: Bass Pro Shops extended its title sponsorship of the Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge for four more years through 2021. ... Geoff Ogilvy's tie for 27th at the Valero Texas Open made him the 26th player in the PGA Tour to go over $30 million in career earnings. ... Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka spoke last year about trying to stockpile as many Nike golf balls when Nike got out of the golf equipment business. Both are using Titleist. Kevin Chappell became the first player on the PGA Tour this year to win using a Nike ball, and the first on the PGA Tour since Cody Gribble last fall in Mississippi. ... Rhode Island's Newport Country Club has been selected to host the U.S. Senior Open in 2020. Newport hosted the first two USGA events - the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur in 1895.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Michelle Wie has seven rounds at 68 or better this season. A year ago, she didn't break 69 until June.


FINAL WORD: ''I know it's strange, and maybe I will have to face the reality one day that I can't hit the golf ball like a 20-year-old. But that's not how I get up in the morning.'' - Padraig Harrington.