By GENARO C. ARMAS, AP Sports Writer
Wisconsin golf fans love home-state favorite Steve Stricker.
He had a pretty good final round, too, shooting a 3-under 69. His 5-under 283 was his lowest score to par in his 20 U.S. Open appearances.
There was one last ovation as he walked off the 18th green after putting for par in the first Open to be held in Wisconsin.
“It was really cool. Yeah, I don’t get those very often,” Stricker said. “And to play well today on top of it was extra special.”
Stricker was rolling down the back end of the back nine, with three birdies between the 14th and 17th holes. He came up short at the par-4-15th , when a 23-foot putt stopped right on the edge of the cup. Stricker tapped in for par.
“Yeah, that would have been nice to get. But can’t complain the way I finished it off,” Stricker said.
He’s not slowing down either.
After turning 50 this year, Stricker gets to play in the PGA Tour Champions event that he will host in Madison next weekend, the American Family Insurance Championship.
He’s not sure if his wife, Nicki, will repeat as his caddie next week, though.
“She’s hurting, I don’t know if she’ll be able to caddie next week,” he said. “But she did well. We had a lot of fun together again.”
SPIETH SHINE: This is more like it for Jordan Spieth at a major.
He shot a 69 to finish at 1 over for the tournament.
Spieth was well off the lead, but seemed to be feeling much better with his game after shooting 76 in the third round. It was an especially good day for Spieth considering how the wind picked up at Erin Hills.
“Yeah, no doubt. I thought it was a fantastic round of golf, given what we were dealing with to start the day,” the fifth-ranked player in the world said.
When asked to rate his confidence level, Spieth assigned himself a “B,” though he graded himself at an “A” with his putter .
“I feel really good about just about everything else,” Spieth said. “I’ve just got to get on the greens and have that cup start to look a bit bigger.”
AMATEUR HOUR: Scottie Scheffler was the low amateur, shooting a 73 to finish at 1 under.
This has been quite the confidence-building experience for the 20-year-old who plays at Texas. He was the only amateur to qualify out of the tough Columbus, Ohio, sectional.
His sister, Callie, served as his caddie at Erin Hills.
“Being an amateur in the U.S. Open is very cool,” Scheffler said.
Cameron Champ, the only other amateur to make the cut, shot a 76 to finish at even par.
THE BIG EASY: Weekend rain softened the greens at Erin Hills. When the wind picked up Sunday, Ernie Els thought of another major championship.
“Today is more like a British Open but they were soft conditions,” the Big Easy said. He shot a 74 to finish at 7 over at Erin Hills, well off the lead.
“So you had to play different shots and the wind is really blustery out there.”
The 47-year-old South African has played in just about every imaginable condition over a 23-year PGA Tour career.
It has been 20 years since Els won the U.S. Open at Congressional, when he held off Colin Montgomerie by a stroke. He also won the Open in 1994, as well as the British Open in 2002 and 2012.
That victory five years ago at Royal Latham was his last tour win. His five-year exemption in the majors is running out this year.
But Els seems at peace with where he is at in his career.
“I’ve played 25 of them, and if I play another great. If not, it’s fine. It’s been a good ride,” the popular Els said while signing autographs for fans.
“Maybe something happens in the next couple of months, win something to get into it for next year,” Els added. “So if that doesn’t happen, it’s been good. It’s been really good.”
THEY’RE IN: Top-10 finishes at Erin Hills will allow Xander Schauffele and Trey Mullinax to return to the U.S. Open next year.
No need to go through qualifying for Shinnecock Hills, after having to travel that route to arrive at Erin Hills.
Mullinax shot 68 on Sunday to tie for ninth at 8 under, eight shots behind winner Brooks Koepka. Mullinax qualified out of the Memphis, Tennessee, sectional.
Schauffele shot 69 to tie for fifth at 10 under in his first U.S. Open. He also qualified out of Memphis, surviving a five-man playoff for one of the final two spots.
Asked about avoiding sectional qualifying next year, Schauffele said, “That’s another thing I didn’t know. Thank you.”
HAIL THE KING: The 18th hole at Erin Hills had a special flag for the final round of the U.S. Open.
The flag commemorated the late Arnold Palmer’s win at the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills. It featured a silhouette of Palmer in mid-stride, tossing his visor in the air. Palmer shot a 65 after going into the final round trailing by seven shots.
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