Two years ago, in the 2007 U.S. Open, fans here were cheering on Madison golfer Jerry Kelly. Angel Cabrera, the portly, chain-smoking Argentinian, went on to win that weekend, but Kelly finished a respectable seventh.
This year, the local to watch is Edgerton's Steve Stricker, currently ranked eighth in the world after winning at Colonial in early June and finishing in the top 10 five other times this year.
Stricker turned pro in 1990 and had his best year on the PGA Tour in 1996, with two wins and a fourth-place finish on the tour's money list. But his game started to decline in 2002, and he failed to qualify for the tour in 2005.
Afterward he returned to Madison, spending many a winter morning hitting balls out of a heated trailer onto a snow-covered driving range at Cherokee Country Club under the tutelage of his father-in-law, former UW golf coach Dennis Tiziani.
He returned fulltime in 2006, when he was named the tour's comeback player of the year, an honor he claimed again in 2007. He's one of the tour's most consistent players, ranking third in putting and seventh in greens reached in regulation this year.
Unfortunately, Stricker has had to spend his most productive years competing with Tiger Woods, whose heroics include winning the 2008 U.S. Open with a blown-out knee, limping along the fairways using his driver as a cane.
Stricker tees off at 6:44 a.m. on Thursday, June 18. Tiger begins at 7:06 in a threesome with Cabrera.