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February 19 2013

6:57 PM

Rested Stricker ready to play

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

MARANA, Ariz. -- Steve Stricker turns 46 on Saturday. He's hardly heading for golf's greener pastures but he has realized he needs to make some concessions to age and ailments.

To be sure, Stricker is still one of the game's best, ranked 16th in the world, in fact, to earn his spot in this week's World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, a tournament he won in 2001. But he can't handle the wear and tear on his body the way he could 10 years ago and his last event was evidence.

Stricker put on a game title defense at the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, finishing third despite pain that crept down his leg and into his foot as he walked the hills of the Plantation Course at Kapalua. He went home to Wisconsin, had an MRI and discovered he was suffering from a herniated C5 disc.

"I got a cortisone shot (in his back) that same week," Stricker said. "And really from that point on, I've been feeling good. And I've done a lot of physical therapy, a lot of strengthening of my back and left side, and I feel really strong. No pain at all anymore in my butt or down my leg. 

"So it's been good, knock on wood, and hopefully continue down that road of maintenance."

Stricker announced late last year that he would cut back his schedule in 2013 and the specifics now appear to have taken shape. Stricker said Tuesday the remainder of his schedule would include the three majors in the United States, as well as THE PLAYERS Championship, likely the Shell Houston Open and the John Deere Classic, which he has won three times.

As it stands now, though, Stricker -- who earned the nickname Mr. September for his prowess during the FedExCup Playoffs -- doesn't plan to be part of the chase for the $10 million bonus.

"Right now the plan is not to play any of the FedExCup at all and just shut it down right after the PGA," Stricker said. "Probably won't play any of the fall events, either, so I'll be at home a lot, maybe play a couple times in December to get ready for the early part of next year." 

Stricker, who has not hit a shot in competition in six weeks, enjoyed the extended break. He has a heated bay back home in Madison, Wisc., where he can hit balls into the snow and he has made good use of it in the last couple of weeks. He also headed to Phoenix a few days early to take advantage of the warm sunshine so he feels ready for his opening match with Henrik Stenson on Wednesday.

"Really for me, this is par for the course," Stricker said. "I don't mind coming off of long breaks and getting my game in shape. ... (I) came down here on Sunday. I've got a lot of golf under my belt in a short period of time, and my game feels good. 

"I'm excited to be here, and that's worth something, too. Your excitement level goes on when you don't play a lot. -I'm looking forward to playing, and hopefully play well the next few days."

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