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Cold Wisconsin spring keeps Stricker on Tour to work on his game

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THOMAS J. MILLER
April 9, 2008

Steve Stricker can feel for every golfer who has to spend this spring in Wisconsin.


The lasting affect of winter kept courses from opening. It also kept Stricker on the PGA Tour circuit more than he expected.


“My short game is good, but that is something I can’t do at home,” Stricker said last week during the Shell Houston Open. “I can hit balls, but I can’t chip and putt. I just felt like I wanted to continue to play and work on those things.”


So instead of taking a few weeks off in preparation for The Masters that starts Thursday, Stricker stayed out on the PGA Tour.


The Edgerton native and Madison resident played three consecutive weeks in six of the possible eight tournaments leading up to The Masters.


The results were encouraging and did nothing to stop the momentum Stricker has built up the past two years. He missed only one cut in the six tournaments. His worst finish was a tie for 14th in the PODS Championship and his best was a tie for sixth at the World Golf Championships-CA Championship.


That boosted him to seventh on the money list ($1,518,039), sixth in the FedEx Cup points list and third in the all-around rankings.


That leads into this week’s Masters, the season’s first major event, where Stricker has not had success.


He has missed the cut in four of the seven Masters he has played in. His highest finish was a tie for 10th in 2001. That year, he opened with a 66. In the seven rounds he has played there since, he has not broken 71.


“It’s a tough place to play,” Stricker said. “It kind of favors guys that can hit it a long ways off the tee, but then Zach Johnson showed last year that that wasn’t really necessary when he won.”


Stricker struggled at Augusta again last year, shooting rounds of 77 and 79. That was the first time he had qualified for the event since 2001.


“It’s a different feeling going in there,” Stricker said. “There’s a lot of history. It’s a different style of course. The greens are very tough. You have to be on your game.”


The one part of Stricker’s game that he has always been able to count on is his putting. And that, in theory, should make him a contender on the 7,445-yard, par-72 course.


But it seems that Stricker has not been able to carry his putting touch past the Georgia border.


“”I’ve struggled in years past putting,” he said. “It’s a tough place to putt for me. I’m spending a little more time on my putting and hopefully it will pay off.’”


Stricker will play the first two rounds with Vijay Singh and Stewart Cink. The group goes off at 12:30 p.m. for Thursday’s first round and at 9:23 a.m. for Friday’s second round.


Stricker knows he can still be playing Saturday and Sunday.


“My confidence level is good,” he said. “I know I can compete at a higher level. I’ve shot some really low rounds. I’ve just been a touch inconsistent.”


The Masters at a glance

Site: Augusta National Golf Club.


Length: 7,445 yards. Par: 36-36—72.


Purse: To be determined ($7.4 million in 2007).


Field: 93 players (three amateurs).


TV: Thurs.-Fri., 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., ESPN. Sat., 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., CBS. Sun., 1:30 to 6 p.m., CBS.


Interactive: www.masters.org. Live video of Amen Corner starting at 9:45 a.m. Thursday and Friday, 11:45 a.m. on Saturday, 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. Live video of the 15th and 16th holes starting at 10 a.m. Thursday and Friday, noon on Saturday and 11 a.m. on Sunday.



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