By Stan Awtrey, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. -- He sees it as a form of flattery, not as a description of degradation, this title of “Best Player Without a Major.”
Mild-mannered Steve Stricker is simply pleased to be considered worthy to be mentioned among the contenders when they draw up a list of those likely to walk away with the hardware, in this case the Wanamaker Trophy that goes to the winner of the PGA Championship.
“I haven't really thought about it, to tell you the truth,” Stricker said. “It's a nice distinction to have, I guess, that they think you're good enough to win a major. But still, you haven't won a major.”
Stricker is 0-for-52 in majors, although he's finished among the top 10 in each of the four. He would like to win a major title, but he isn't ready to blow a gasket if it doesn't happen.
“I try not to worry about any of that stuff. I really don't,” he said. “I just try to go out and play and do the best I can and hopefully get an opportunity to try to win one coming down the last few holes.”
This week he'll be among the favorites at the Atlanta Athletic Club for the 93rd PGA Championship. He's competed in the event 13 times, with two top-10s, including a runner-up performance in 1998, where he finished two shots behind Vijay Singh at Sahalee Country Club.
This has been another successful season for Stricker, who ranks second in the FedExCup with a mere 41 points separating him and Nick Watney at the top. He won the Memorial Tournament, successfully defended his title at the John Deere Classic and has yet to miss a cut in 14 starts.
Stricker is all about consistency. He's average off the tee, but he's above average in driving accuracy and greens in regulation. And when it comes to getting the ball in the cup, is there anyone better? When was the last time Stricker missed a putt that mattered? He ranks first on the PGA TOUR in strokes gained putting, a stat reflected in his scoring average (69.14), No. 2 on TOUR.
While Stricker hasn't won a major, he keeps hanging around and giving himself a chance. He's been inside the top 20 at each of this year's majors, tying for 11th at the Masters, 19th at the U.S. Open and 12th at the British Open.
The Atlanta Athletic Club may be an ideal venue for Stricker. It's long and will reward players who are able to keep the ball in play, as those who stray far from the fairway will find it more difficult to hold the firm greens with their approach shots.
Now he's 44 years old and is likely running out of legitimate chances to win a major championship. Stricker would certainly like a major championship for the mantle of his man cave, but he isn't applying any additional pressure to get it done. He's taking the same steady approach he always takes.
“You know, I go into each major, and everybody does, wanting to play their best and wanting to play well,” Stricker said. “It's a difficult challenge and that's what separates a lot of the players I think, the guys that can kind of treat it just like any other round, any other shot, to guys that maybe put so much pressure on their game and themselves that it affects their play.”
Stricker tied for 66th the last time the PGA Championship was played in Atlanta. He doesn't remember much about the course that week, even though he had 65 during the second round. Perhaps the second visit will provide a more memorable backdrop. It may even be the scene for the signature event of a great career.