Steve Stricker recently made the 2013 ballot for the World Golf Hall of Fame, but he probably will have to win a major championship to be enshrined in St. Augustine, Fla. However, he can join a list that includes only Young Tom Morris, Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and Tiger Woods this week if he can win the John Deere Classic for the fourth consecutive year.
They are calling it the Stricker Slam.
"We are very excited at the prospect of witnessing Steve Stricker make history and join a very elite group of golfers, should he win his fourth straight John Deere Classic," said Clair Peterson, director of the tournament, which begins Thursday.
"Steve has been . . . a tremendous supporter of the John Deere Classic. His quest to win four in a row will bring international attention and credibility to our event."
Morris captured the British Open from 1868 to 1870, and, after the tournament was not played in 1871, he won it again in 1872. Hagen claimed the PGA Championship from 1924 to ’27. Sarazen took home the Miami Open trophy from 1927 to ’30.
Woods has done it twice. He won the Bay Hill Invitational (now the Arnold Palmer Invitational) 2000-03 and captured the Buick Invitational (now the Farmers Insurance Open) 2005-08.
Those are the only instances in the past 140 years in which a male golfer has won the same tournament four consecutive times.
On the LPGA Tour, Annika Sorenstam went them one better, winning the Mizuno Classic from 2001 to ’05. Laura Davies captured the Standard Register Ping from 1994 to ’97.
When Stricker won the John Deere last year by sinking a 25-foot putt from the fringe on the final hole at TPC Deere Run to beat Kyle Stanley by one stroke, he didn’t want to talk about the possibility of a four-peat. Now, he admits it’s been on his mind.
"Thinking about it, trying to come back here and win again," Stricker said at John Deere Classic Media Day. "A lot of great things have happened to me here. I’m excited to come back. I look forward to it. It’s a special place for me.
"I’m a deer hunter. To get a trophy with a deer on there, that’s pretty cool. It’s one of my favorite trophies. . . . Maybe that’s karma for me. But it’s a special place for me here."
Stricker, a graduate of the University of Illinois who lives not far away in Madison, Wis., is playing in the event for the 11th time even though it means taking a red-eye charter flight the tournament provides on Sunday night for players heading to the British Open.
He’ll get to Royal Lytham & St. Annes with jetlag and be behind in his preparation for the third major of the year, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
"The community has adopted me, I guess," said Stricker, who captured the 2012 season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions for his 12th PGA Tour victory. "They come out, give me a tremendous amount of support.
"Yeah, it’s a lot of fun to come back. I have a lot of family and friends from Wisconsin and Illinois, where I went to school. It’s a good week, one I look forward to every year."
Stricker hasn’t been able to ride the momentum from his John Deere victories to a major championship the next week, or any other week in his career for that matter. Even though he thinks about winning a major, he’s not stressing over the void on his resume.
"It’s not life or death," said Stricker, who has won eight times since 2009. "Obviously, I’m 45, so that window of opportunity is dwindling. (Jack) Nicklaus won (the Masters) when he was 46. Holy cow! How can he win when he’s 46? I haven’t won a major yet. He won 17 up to that point.
"I realize where I’m at. I also realize I’ve played some great golf over the last five, six years, won a lot of tournaments. That gives me the confidence that I could still do it.
"I just have to put four good rounds together, get the putter going a little bit, see what happens."
Stricker will get another chance next week at Lytham, where he tied for 42nd in 2001 and tied for 22nd in 1996, the past two times the British Open was played on the course in Lancashire.
But that will have to wait because he has other important business this week closer to home — and closer to his heart.