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Illinois alumnus Steve Stricker disappointed with Ryder Cup outcome

Steve Stricker crouched behind the ball, hands cupped around the bill of his hat, trying to gauge the contours of the 35 or so feet of bent grass in front of him. He got up and walked to the far side of the hole. Back and forth he went on the 18th green at Medinah No. 3, sometimes taking his caddy with him, sometimes having his caddy stand opposite of him. He crouched, he stood, he paced, he crouched, he stood, he paced again.

With the Ryder Cup potentially on the line, Stricker wanted to make sure he had this one down.

He didn’t.

In fact, Stricker missed badly, the ball settling some 8 feet left of the hole. He made the comebacker, but it didn’t matter. He needed a birdie, Martin Kaymer needed a par. They both two-putted, and the Europeans kept the Ryder Cup, leaving Stricker pointless in four matches.

Stricker — a captain’s pick based largely on his experience and pure putting stroke — suffered a similar fate on the par-3 17th hole. With the match all square, Stricker’s tee shot was long, just off the green. His chip scooted 6 feet past the hole, and after another lengthy read, he missed the par putt.

Kaymer’s birdie putt also ran well past the hole, but he made his par to take a 1-up lead into the 18th.

Stricker made three bogeys without a birdie over the last eight holes, yet never fell behind by more than one hole. The missed putt on 17 stuck out the most — make it, and the match would have come down to Tiger Woods vs. Francesco Molinari. Instead, those two played a meaningless 18th hole, hitting their approach shots to a green surrounded by celebrating Europeans and dejected Americans, none of whom was paying much attention to the weekend’s final match.

“Probably there at the end, Tiger and I (were) there to probably get some points,” Stricker said. “And I didn’t. So that’s disappointing.”

Stricker, a 45-year-old Illinois grad from Madison, Wis., acknowledged that the pressure at the Ryder Cup — with tens of thousands of roaring fans lining the last few greens — is immense, even for a 22-year pro.

“Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of expectations on us,” he said. “We put a lot of expectations on ourselves to perform, you know. And sometimes it’s good and bad. I mean, when you’re going good, it’s great, and when you’re not, it can be a negative because you feel like you’re letting the crowd down.”

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