PALM HARBOR, Fla. —
He was genuinely happy to hear that Woods had putted well in the opening round, and the feeling didn’t change when Woods finished two shots ahead of him.
“His attitude, and what I saw this week, and his belief in himself again looks very similar to where he was in the early 2000s — or you can pick any year, I guess when he was playing great,” Stricker said. “Yeah, he just seems in a better place mentally to me. He seems to be having fun. Seems to have a lot of confidence in himself and his game. And that’s fun to see.”
Everyone has more fun when they’re making putts.
“Now I know how he feels every day,” Woods said of Stricker. “No wonder he’s always in a good mood.”
Woods is in a good spot with two wins before the Masters. Stricker is in a good spot because he’s playing less and looks as good as ever.
“I’m really excited what I’m doing this year,” Stricker said Tuesday. “I can tell by my demeanor on the golf course.”
He probably should have done this a few years ago. He felt he owed it to his sponsors to play a full schedule, and he was thrilled when he realized they were on board with him cutting back this year. Even then, he was concerned that he would be criticized by golf fans for not playing as much.
The original plan was to defend his title at Kapalua and walk away. Over the holidays, he struck a compromise of 10 or 11 events.
“What I told Nicki was if I could just make enough money to pay our yearly expenses as a family, I’m fine with that,” Stricker said at Kapalua. “If we don’t have to touch anything I’ve put away, I don’t need to do what I’m doing just to make money. I’d rather be staying home, doing things at home.
“I wanted to not have it be about me anymore.”