Perhaps one of the world's best golfers with one of the most likable demeanors, Steve Stricker, age 46, comes into the first major championship of the year in good spirits.
After announcing his semi-retirement plan at the start of 2013, Stricker has outplayed most of the young guns out on Tour, making the statement that he may be old, but he still has game.
Stricks opened his season with a runner-up finish at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and followed up his strong season debut with a top-five finish at the Accenture Match Play Championship and another runner-up finish at the WGC Cadillac Championship.
Not too bad for a guy who's slowly easing into his retirement and focused on spending more time with his family.
He will arrive at this years Masters as the eighth-ranked player in the world in search of the one thing that has eluded him throughout his career: A major championship. With 12 wins under his belt, the 46-year-old veteran has never won a major championship, but with his new schedule and carefree attitude, Stricker's chances at adding one to his resume may be improving.
So far, his reduced schedule has produced positive results that he can carry over to the Masters. Even though his Master's record is fairly mediocre—only one top-10 in the past six years—his new attitude should bode well for him when he tees it up at Augusta next week.
Given that Augusta National has always demanded a solid player with good ball striking and a good short game—as with any other major championship course—Stricker has a definite chance at being in contention come Sunday afternoon.
He is ranked second this season in greens hit in regulation, and along with his solid iron play which as always been an asset of his game, Stricker will be staring down plenty of birdie opportunities out on the course. Stricker can also rely on his strong wedge play, especially on the par-fives—a la Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion who laid up on every par-five during the week—for scoring opportunities.
His putting and touch on the greens have always been sharp, and are two more assets that will win Stricker his first major championship. Overall, his performance during the 2013 season bodes well for the Masters, and his change in attitude might just be what the veteran needs to capture the green jacket at Augusta.