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March 7 2013

4:22 PM

Stricker's tip helps Woods to lead

Tiger Woods needed just 23 putts Thursday at Trump Doral. (Ehrman/Getty Images)

By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

DORAL, Fla. -- A little advice from an old friend went a long way for Tiger Woods on Thursday.

Earlier in the week, Steve Stricker was working with Woods on the shaft angle of Woods' putter to better align it with his ball position at address.

It paid off in the form of a 6-under 66 and a share of the lead after the first round of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.

Woods made nine birdies -- matching his most since the first round of the 2012 BMW Championship -- and just three bogeys on a surprisingly benign day at Trump Doral, where wind was hardly a factor.

His career-high for most birdies in a round is 10, at the 2005 Bucik Invitational at Torrey Pines' North Course and at the 2003 Bay Hill Invitational.

Thursday, Woods needed just 23 putts, which included 11 one-putts on a day in which he hit 13 greens in regulation.

"Whatever he says, I'm going to do," Woods said of longtime friend Stricker. "He's one of the best putters that's ever lived. He can see things that are off a little bit because he knows my stroke so well.

"Did it help me today? Yes, it did, certainly. It was nice to be able to hit putts like that again today."

That wasn't the only thing that helped.

Woods also switched his 5-wood, from Nike's SQ version to the Covert.

"This one they made was a little deeper face, which is very similar to what I had, and something where I could get it out there," Woods said. "I finally put one in play that I felt comfortable with. There's a little bit bigger gap between the 3‑iron and the 5‑wood, but I can hit this 5‑wood a little bit higher, so I can actually take something off it and throw it up in the air."

Not to mention throw up his best score of the year since a second-round 65 at Torrey Pines, where he went on to win.

As for Stricker, who is in the field this week but has said he plans to play a reduced schedule, Woods said it won't be the last time he seeks his council.

"I think I'm going to have a contract with him because he's only going to play, what, five tournaments this year," Woods joked. "I'll bring him out in his off weeks."

Even though Woods and Stricker are competing against each other, the move isn't uncommon in golf.

"That's what friends do," Woods said. "Friends help each other out."

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