KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — Steve Stricker is multi-tasking this week at the PGA Championship. While most players in this week's field arrived at the Ocean Course with their sights set on the Wanamaker Trophy, Stricker had his eyes locked on another prize as well: an automatic spot on the American Ryder Cup team.
Sitting in 10th in the current Ryder Cup standings coming into tournament, Stricker knew the only way he could leapfrog Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson, who currently sits in eight, and final, automatic spot on the team, was to get into contention at the PGA and post a strong finish.
But after opening with two straight over par rounds, Stricker looked like a guy who was going to have to wait by his phone for a call from Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III. At 3-over when he teed off on Saturday morning, he wasn't out of the tournament, but if there was one thing he needed to do to get back into the mix, it was start strong and take chances.
With the winds blowing about 5-10 mph during the morning wave, Stricker did just that, opening with four straight pars before going on a birdie binge that included five birdies in a seven hole stretch to go from 3-over to 2-under. When play was suspended at 4:50 p.m. EST due to weather at the Ocean Course, Stricker had already moved up 30 spots on the leaderboard, an impressive surge that now has him just four shots back of on-course leaders Rory McIlroy and Vijay Singh.
"Well, you know, it kind of gets me back in it," Stricker said. "It all depends on what happens this afternoon. The wind may be kicking up a little bit more, making it a little bit more difficult for them. But it all depends what those leaders do. If one of those leaders goes out and shoots a 5‑under round, bang, I'm seven back again. It all depends what they do will determine how far I'm back, obviously. I'm going to have to have another good one or better one tomorrow."
At the moment, the leaders aren't doing a darn thing -- after all, they're sitting in the clubhouse waiting out the storm -- but with a number of players racking up birdies, Stricker may have to put together a sub-67 round to have a shot on Sunday.
However, even if he fails to make any noise during the final round, there's still a good chance Stricker -- a two-time Ryder Cup participant -- could earn a spot on Love's team via one of his four captain's picks. He's playing well at the moment with two top 5s in his last three starts.
Another strong finish at the final major of the year would likely be enough to lock up a spot on his third straight Ryder Cup team. He's one round away from making that happen.