Steve Stricker was back in action Thursday - and back to his usual outstanding form.
After taking a couple of weeks off following the Masters, Stricker birdied four of his last five holes to shoot a 6-under par 66 in the opening round of the Zurich Classic outside New Orleans. At the end of the day, the three-time John Deere Classic defending champion found himself in a four-way tie for third place, trailing co-leaders Ken Duke and Cameron Tringale by one stroke. Ernie Els, Daniel Chopra, and Chris Stroud also were at 6-under.
"Putted well, hit the ball well, gave myself a lot of opportunities [to putt for birdie]," Stricker said afterward. "...I played really solid all day and just anytime you can finish with four birdies out of the last five holes, it's a nice end to your day."
Stricker said he likes the greens at TPC Louisiana and likes the tournament.
"I enjoy coming here," he said. "First of all, I enjoy the city and the weather. It's always nice and warm here. The course I enjoy. It's always in good shape. This year is no different...I expect it to get a little firmer and faster as we continue to play."
Stricker played in a threesome with Masters champion Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, another young phenom.
"Well, really, it's fun," Stricker said. "Anytime you can go out with Bubba and watch his game. He plays such a unique style. He hits if forever. It's really unfair at times, you know, how far he hits it. It's usually about four clubs difference...He's hitting an 8-iron, I'm maybe hitting a 4-iron. Utility club I hit one time, he hit 8-iron. It's just bizarre distance that he hits it but he shapes it, too. He's fun to watch."
In six starts this season, Stricker has three top 10 finishes, including a victory at the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, and has not missed a cut. He finished tied for 47th at the Masters.
He's No. 1 on the PGA Tour in consecutive cuts made, at 48, and figures to make it 49 by Friday evening.
Other interesting Stricker stats include the fact that he's 168th in driving distance, at 275 yards per measured drive. Yet he's 12th on Tour in greens in regulation at just under 70 percent. He's 15th in birdie average overall and his scoring average is 70, 10th-best on Tour.