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    Stricker Hopes to Help Himself to Title

    Stricker on Monday
    Scott K.Brown/Augusta National
    Steve Stricker blasts out of a bunker in his Monday Practice Round.

    Steve Stricker is such a nice guy, he gave Tiger Woods a putting tip before the Cadillac Championship earlier this year at Doral. It worked so well that Woods wound up winning by two shots – over Stricker.

    Stricker, one of the Tour pros closest to Woods, played 14 holes of a practice round with him Sunday after traveling to Augusta from Atlanta, where Stricker attended the Final Four semifinal games.

    So did Woods return the favor and offer some advice to Stricker about how to achieve success at Augusta National?

    “Ah, no,” Stricker said with a laugh.

    “We were talking about pitching and chip shots and little wedge play,” Stricker said. “We were talking about that a lot. I was asking him about what he does and what he tries to do, and his action on the way back and on the way through.”

    It probably would help Stricker if some of Woods’ Masters magic rubbed off, because Augusta National hasn’t been particularly kind to the 46-year-old from Wisconsin. Stricker’s best finish at the Masters is a tie for sixth place in 2009. He’s had only two top 10s in 12 appearances and has missed the cut five times.

    “Guys keep telling you, before you even come here, how nerve-wracking, how intimidating some of this course can be,” Stricker said. “So this reputation that it has - and it’s rightly so - I guess it gets in your head at times.

    “That’s the stuff that you have to overcome here, and it’s a tricky course.”

    Stricker is winding down his career and plans to play about a dozen tournaments this year, his 20th season on the PGA Tour. He has three top-5 finishes in only four events in 2013. It’s not that Stricker can no longer play at a high level; he simply doesn’t want to.

    A 12-time winner on the PGA Tour, Stricker has made nearly $37 million in official earnings, so he’s clearly financially set, even if his career is coming to a close.  Then there is Woods, a 77-time winner, four of whose victories have come at the Masters. Woods has career earnings of almost $105 million. And now, after the putting tip that Stricker gave him, Woods may be the favorite again at the Masters.

    “Looks like he’s got a ton of confidence in that putter, which you need to go around here,” Stricker said. “It looks like he’s comfortable in his game and what he’s doing, and yeah, I expect him to be in the mix come Sunday for sure.”

    Stricker chips on No. 18
    Scott K.Brown/Augusta National
    Stricker and Singh
    Scott K.Brown/Augusta National