KIAWAH ISLAND — There are a lot of carrots dangling for Steve Stricker today.
A 5-under-par 67 Saturday at the Ocean Course got the Wisconsin native within shouting distance of the leaders in the PGA Championship at 2-under-par 214.
And it was a score sure to impress U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love, who next month will make his final four picks for the matches that will be played Sept. 25-30 at Medinah Country Club near Chicago.
The PGA Championship is the final points event to automatically qualify and Stricker is 10th, two places behind No. 8 Phil Mickelson, who currently holds the last automatic Ryder Cup team spot. While Love has indicated he likes Stricker for one of the at-large spots, Stricker knows there are no guarantees.
“I’ve been in this position before, on the outside looking in,” Stricker said. “I’ve got the call (from the captain) two times. One time I got in, one time I didn’t. You want to make it on our own. That’s the goal, anyway. My goal is to make the team on points alone and not have to rely on a captain’s pick. I have a shot. It’s a long shot.”
Stricker played a practice round at the Ocean Course earlier this week with Love, who told him to go out and play without worrying about the Ryder Cup team. He said Love reminded him there was still a lot of time before the event.
“It was nice to hear it coming from Davis,” Stricker said. “He’s a friend, and for him to pull me aside and tell me not to worry about it means a lot.”
Stricker said he felt like he was just going through the motions during his opening-round 74, played under benign weather conditions Thursday.
“I didn’t have my best stuff. I wasn’t thinking properly,” he said. “I don’t know if I was nervous because I had the Ryder Cup thing on my mind.”
With conditions Saturday much milder than a day earler, Stricker was able to put together six birdies, including four on the front nine, against just one bogey. That rocketed him 30 spots up the leaderboard.
“I got it a little closer today and made a couple of putts,” Stricker said. “Yesterday was a real solid day but you just had to grind it out. It was a good round to get under my belt.”
Immediately after Saturday’s round, Stricker was thinking ahead to today.
“So, two good rounds. Hopefully I can put another one together (Sunday),” he said. “It kind of gets me back in there. It all depends on what the leaders do. I’m going to have to have another good one or better one.”