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Stricker playing for invite, not jacket

Wisconsin native alters goal after rallying to survive cut

Saturday, April 10, 2010

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Halfway through the Masters Tournament, Steve Stricker has put thoughts of winning a green jacket on the back burner.

The world's No. 2-ranked player shot his second consecutive 73 and stands 10 shots off the lead. Because of inconsistent iron play, Stricker said he would be happy just to finish in the top 16 and automatically qualify for the 2011 Masters.

Stricker shot 2-under on the back nine, parring the final five holes, including a 50-foot two-putt at the last, to post 2-over-par 146 through two rounds. He is tied for 33rd and is three shots out of a tie for 16th.

"I just tried to fight my way into the weekend," said Stricker, who is still seeking his first major. "It's important. You miss the cut here and you leave here on a sour note. Instead, I can be excited and maybe move up the leaderboard."

Stricker made his fifth cut in nine Masters appearances. Last year, he finished tied for sixth after closing with rounds of 68-71.

After 26 holes this year, the Wisconsin native stood at 4-over and outside the cut line. He rebounded with a birdie at No. 11, then two-putted for birdie at No. 13, his first red number on a par-5 hole in two rounds.

Stricker is 1-over on the par-5 holes this week. He said that's inexcusable.

"Around here, that's where you've got to do your scoring," he said.

He hit 13 of 14 fairways in the second round and averaged 279 yards off the tee. But for the second day in a row, Stricker found just 10 of 18 greens in regulation.

"I just need to get some more confidence," he said. "I'm not swinging at it very aggressively at times. I hit two really good irons on 17 and 18 when I had to, and that means a lot. I just have to believe in what I'm doing. If I'm driving it well, then my swing must be all right.

"I usually swing pretty tentatively around here for whatever reason. It's a tough course, and you've got to be mentally prepared on each shot. I haven't done that very well the past couple of days."

Stricker was even through three holes but failed to get up and down from the bunker at No. 4, then missed a 4-foot downhill putt.

He then drove into the left bunker at the dogleg-left par-4 fifth. His ball landed in a rake depression, which prevented him from hitting toward the green. He hit backward out of the bunker and salvaged bogey.

The two bogeys led to a front-nine 39.

"I just have to get off to a better start," Stricker said. "I've been put behind the 8-ball both days."

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.

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