Stricker optimistic entering Masters

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Chris Gay
April 7, 2011
— After a decades worth of appearances, Steve Stricker is starting to find his way around Augusta National Golf Club.

And with this weekends warm, dry weather expected, Stricker could find himself in contention to capture his first green jacket.

Winner of the 2010 John Deere Classic, Stricker still is seeking his first major championship. The Edgerton native has had a spotty record in the Masters, but this is a different year.

Its been tough for me there, and I dont know why, he said. Its a course where you need to hit it long, and more importantly you need to be hitting your irons well.

Ive struggled there in the past with my iron play. If youre off with your irons, it puts a lot of pressure on your short game and your putting.

If you dont hit it in those little quadrants where you can make an easy two-putt, its tough to two-putt at times. Hopefully, Ill get my iron play in order before I get there. Thats the key there.

After missing three consecutive Masters cuts, Stricker has tied for sixth place and tied for 30th the past two years.

Known for his putting, the short-hitting Stricker will catch a break with temperatures expected to climb above 80 the final three rounds this year. The hot weather translates into extra roll in the fairways for players like Stricker.

That means he would be able to compete with the bombers like defending champion Phil Mickelson and the long-hitting Bubba Watson.

I keep looking at some of the guys whove won there, said the third-highest ranked American in the world. Mike Weir doesnt hit it extremely long. Zach Johnson doesnt hit it extremely long. So it can be done.

You dont have to be a bomber to win there. I keep telling myself it would help to be long and in the fairway, but guys have shown that you dont have to necessarily overpower it.

At 44, Stricker still has plenty of time to win his first green jacket. Twenty-five years ago, Jack Nicklaus claimed his sixth Masters title at age 46.

Id obviously like to be a few years younger, I think, but I still think I can win out here, and a major is no different, Stricker said. Youre still playing against the same guys. Its just coming all together that one week.

Stricker is playing in his 11th Masters. In 30 previous rounds, he has posted a 73.3 scoring average. He is hopeful experience pays off this year.

I feel like Ive played there enough and know where to hit it and where not to hit it, he said of Augusta National. Ill try not to overanalyze it.

Id like to believe I can win there. I get excited to go there and play. Its been difficult for me there, so Ive got to erase those thoughts and go there with a fresh attitude about it.

Stricker tees off at 11:53 this morning. His playing partners are Fred Couples and Luke Donald.

Madison native Jerry Kelly tees off at 7:07 a.m., while Menomonee Falls native Mark Wilson will tee off at 8:13 a.m.

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