Stricker tempers great expectations with cool restraint

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

The American ended last year with career-high earnings of $6.33 million on the highly competitive U.S. circuit and he is the highest-rankest player in the field for this week's SBS Championship on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

"I learned back in college, I would win some tournaments and try to go to the next tournament and like: 'I'm going to win this one'. You put that emphasis on winning.

"But that is a direct correlation to failing. I guess you put so much emphasis on winning that your expectations are so high and your patience is very low at that point.

"So I learned a long time ago that I can't go and expect to win," added the 42-year-old, who is regarded as one of the best putters on the PGA Tour.

"I can expect to play good, I guess, but not put so much pressure on myself that I have to play good and just take it as it comes and do what I do.

"This year I expect to go out and play well. I think that's different from maybe three of four years ago when I wasn't sure I was going to play well."

IMPROVED ATTITUDE

A seven-times winner on the PGA Tour, Stricker felt his improved attitude over the last couple of years had been a significant factor in his overall improvement as a player.

"Probably the best part of my game (in that time) is that I've been able to shrug things off and move on," he said.

"And that's what I really want to make sure that I continue to do well is keep my attitude the way it's been ... not get too down when I hit a bad shot and not get too high when I hit a good shot. Keep that even keel going.

"That's my goal. Each week is coming out to play well and keep a good attitude about it all."

In many ways, Stricker regards this week's season-opening event in Hawaii as a continuation of last year.

"I feel like I haven't really lost a beat," he said. "I feel like I'm still doing the same things that I ended the year on. I gained a lot of confidence from last year.

"I feel comfortable. I feel relaxed. I had enough time at home. My swing is feeling pretty good for not playing. Hopefully we will get off to a good start."

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)