Wrong entrance for Stricker
Standing over a rare birdie chance on the final green, Stricker watched a leaf hit his ball, putter and his leg in one motion. He missed the eight-foot attempt.
“Little things like that,” the Edgerton native said. “When you’re losing your patience, little things bother you more than they should.”
In windy conditions, Stricker struggled to get anything going and carded a 1-over-par 73. He stands seven shots off the pace set by leader Fred Couples.
Stricker recorded one birdie, two bogeys and 15 pars on a day when 31 of 96 players shot under par.
“I just never really put myself in position to make any birdies,” Stricker said. “Just everything that could’ve gone wrong went wrong today.
“We’ll go out tomorrow, and I’ll see if I can go out and put up a decent number.”
Stricker hit just 10 of 18 greens and needed 29 putts to get around, five more than Couples and Watson each. He hooked drives on his first two holes, and the second one proved costly.
Stricker overcooked his draw on the par-5 second hole, the second-easiest hole of the day. His drive went left into the trees. He punched out and settled for bogey.
“You can’t go left there,” he said.
Stricker got back to even with a birdie at the 240-yard, par-3 fourth.
He lost a shot at the dogleg-left, par-4 ninth hole. But he came back and parred the final nine holes.
At the par-3 16th, his drive landed just left of the green and miraculously avoided the pond, stopping in the rough within inches of disaster. Stricker deftly chipped the ball high off the slope and let it roll back down to within four feet. He calmly rolled in the putt.
Stricker played in the pairing directly in front of Tiger Woods, the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer who returned to action for the first time in five months. When Stricker, No. 2 in the world, teed off at the first hole, thousands of fans surrounded the tee box. He said the crowd swell didn’t bother him.
“No effect at all,” Stricker said. “I didn’t even notice it. It’s usually crowded at all these greens, and it was no different today.”
Stricker is seeking his first major championship this week. Last year, he tied for sixth in Augusta—his best Masters showing.