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Player notebook

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


RAIN CHECK: Tiger Woods mentioned Monday that he was looking forward to playing a practice round with friend Steve Stricker .

Scott Verplank follows his tee shot on No. 12 during the Tuesday practice round. (Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff)

Woods instead played with Mark O'Meara on Tuesday after receiving a text message from Stricker saying that he would not be on the course early in the morning.

"He gets up pretty early," Stricker said with a laugh.

Stricker's presence was requested at the media building for an afternoon news conference -- the second-ranked player in the world is clearly in demand -- and he didn't want to spend a full day on the course. He played nine holes late in the morning, then left to talk about, in part, why he could win this tournament.

Stricker, behind only Woods in the world rankings, has won eight times on tour. He has yet to win a major.

"I always think and dream of winning a major," he said. "It's hard to dream about it and think about it and then not put too much pressure on yourself. ... So there's a fine line of trying to make this your time and just try to let it come naturally."

Stricker's best finish at a Masters came last year, when he tied for sixth and was four shots back of the three-man playoff group. He shot three rounds under par after opening with an even-par 72.

PADDY FEELS THE SAME: One phrase you will not hear around the Masters this week: "Paddy Slam."

A year ago, Padraig Harrington entered the tournament having won the previous two major championships. A win at the Masters would have been the third leg of his slam.

Flash forward to this year, and Harrington hasn't won since those back-to-back majors in 2008. The Irishman said he still feels the same amount of pressure heading into Thursday's first round.

"It feels the same as it did to me last year," said Harrington, a three-time major winner who was never a factor last year on his way to tying for 35th place. "The way I'm approaching it, I feel the same. I feel under every bit as much stress last year as I do this year."

Harrington is one of three players ranked in the top 10 in the world looking for his fourth major championship. Phil Mickelson . Ernie Els and Vijay Singh (No. 36 in the world) have all won three majors.

"A lot has been made at the moment ... who is going to get the fourth major, break out of the pack of three," Harrington said. "If I won a fourth, I would dearly like it to be the Masters or the U.S. Open. ... The Masters is definitely one of the most special ones to win."

HELPING HAND: Chang-won Han graduated from high school two weeks ago and plans to attend college in South Korea next year. This week, he will compete in a tournament alongside the best golfers in the world.

Han earned a spot in the field by winning the inaugural Asian Amateur Championship last year. He conceded he was "very, very nervous" playing his practice round Monday, but he was more relaxed Tuesday playing in a group that included countryman K.J. Choi , a 39-year-old competing in his eighth Masters.

"He's been very helpful around the course because he's been here before," Han said. "He's a veteran and showed me a lot as far as course knowledge is concerned, and he helped very much."

Han, one of six amateurs competing this year, will play with Henrik Stenson and 2007 champion Zach Johnson on Thursday.

QUICK SWITCH: Stewart Cink surprised himself with a club change he made heading into his 13th Masters.

Cink, the 2009 British Open winner, thought he would be playing with a 21-degree hybrid instead of a 2-iron, but the 2-iron is back in the bag.

Cink said he has been inconsistent with the hybrid club, mostly missing long. He played the club in his most recent tournament, two weeks ago at Bay Hill.

"I just find it to be really reliable," he said of the 2-iron. "(But) it may not be the exact kind of club you want to go to the green with on 13 or 15 or 2 or 4."

He added, laughing: "Or any of the holes, for that matter."

EITHER/OR : Geoff Ogilvy has won the PGA Tour's first event the past two seasons and has developed into a consistent early season player.

But the world's 13th-ranked player missed the cut last week in Houston. He arrived in Augusta on Saturday.

"It's one of those good/bad situations," he said. "I would rather have had four rounds last week, but not like I missed out on any because I got to come here early. So there's good and bad to it.

GOOD SPOT: When amateur Ben Martin signed up for the Par-3 Contest this week, he noticed three familiar names already on the list: Jack Nicklaus , Arnold Palmer and Gary Player . Martin wrote his name in the pairing ahead of the big names.

"I'll sure be looking back a lot," he said.

Martin will play with another amateur: U.S. Public Links champion Brad Benjamin .

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