Call it the Stricker Slam. That's the piece of golf history that Steve Stricker will go after beginning Thursday in the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., on the outskirts of Moline.
In the last 140 years, only four players have won any big pro tournament four straight times. Stricker would become the fifth if he continues his reign at the $4.6 million JDC -- the only PGA Tour stop in Illinois in 2012.
The select company that Stricker would join starts with Tom Morris Jr., who won the British Open from 1868-70 and again in 1872 (there was no tournament in 1871). Others to win a tourney four straight times were Walter Hagen, PGA Championship from 1924-27; Gene Sarazen, Miami Open from 1927-30; and Tiger Woods, who did it twice -- Bay Hill Invitational from 2000-2003 and Buick Invitational from 2005-08.
Only 17 players have won a tournament three straight times.
Stricker's run at history has taken on gigantic proportions in the Quad Cities. A bobblehead in his honor has even been created for the occasion. Stricker tees off at 8:45 a.m. off the No. 1 tee in Wednesday's pro-am, fields pretournament media questions for the last time after the round and then the challenge begins.
His challengers include 31 players who have won on the tour in the last two years. In what may be the strongest field the tourney has ever assembled, late entrants include Stewart Cink, the 2009 British Open champion; Y.E. Yang, the 2009 PGA titlist; South African Rory Sabbatini; and Jeff Maggert, who tied for third in the 2010 JDC.
There's also a flock of young college stars -- Illinois' Luke Guthrie, Stanford's Patrick Rodgers, Texas' Jordan Spieth, Augusta State's Patrick Reed and Louisiana State's John Peterson. Rodgers and Spieth are still amateurs. The other three just turned pro.
The local PGA Tour stars -- Illinois alum D.A. Points, Kevin Streelman of Wheaton and Mark Wilson of Elmhurst -- will also challenge Stricker. TV coverage will run from 2-5 p.m. all four days, with The Golf Channel covering Thursday and Friday and CBS (Ch. 2) on the weekend.
Small goes for No. 5
A day after the JDC ends, Illinois' best pros and amateurs will battle in the //www.ipga.com/tournaments/2012/illinoisopen/">63rd Illinois Open at The Glen Club in Glenview. The tourney, which runs Monday through next Wednesday (July 16-18) is returning there after four years at Hawthorn Woods, and that's good news for Illinois coach Mike Small.
Small won the tournament four times at The Glen, but couldn't get his record-tying fifth win at Hawthorn Woods. Gary Pinns holds the Illinois Open record with his five victories, the last of which came in 1990.
Featured pairing in the first round brings together Philip Arouca and Eric Mierdierks, the New Trier graduates who won the last two Illinois Opens. They'll begin play with Illinois alum Zach Barlow at 1:10 p.m. Monday off the No. 1 tee.
Here and there
Lance Ten Broeck, one of the few Chicago players to win on the PGA Tour before becoming a successful caddie, is back playing again. He qualified for the U.S. Senior Open, which runs Thursday-Sunday at Ironwood in Lake Orion, Mich. Other veterans with Chicago connections in the field include Jeff Sluman, Gary Hallberg and Chip Beck.
Illinois Amateur qualifiers will be held Thursday at Bartlett Hills, the Weibring Golf Club in Normal and Prairie View in Byron; Monday at Marengo Ridge; and Tuesday at Highland Park. … The Western Golf Association announced its first invitees to the Western Amateur, which begins July 31 at Exmoor in Highland Park. The list is headed by Bobby Wyatt and Justin Thomas of Alabama and Chris Williams of Washington. As well as Stanford's Rodgers, who will play in the JDC on a sponsor's exemption.
Doug Ghim of Arlington Heights is on the boys' East team in the 40-player Wyndham Cup, an American Junior Golf Association team match play event running July 23-26 at Florida's Bay Hill layout.
While the JDC is in progress, the Chicago-based Mid-American Junior Golf Tour will also hold a tournament in the Quad Cities at Glynns Creek in Long Grove, Ia.
• For more golf news, check out Len's recently renovated website, lenziehmongolf.com. Len can be reached by email at email@example.com. His column appears on Wednesdays in the Daily Herald.