Notebook: For Stricker, father knows best

2012-02-24T00:00:00Z Notebook: For Stricker, father knows bestDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 24, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Steve Stricker turned 45 on Thursday and proved you can never be too old to get some advice from your dad.

Faced with a 21-foot birdie putt on No. 18, Stricker was happy to be putting before his opponent, Louis Oosthuizen, who was closer to the hole.

"My dad has told me the first one in usually wins," Stricker said. "I thought I could put a little pressure on him if I could make it."

He sank the putt, and Oosthuizen indeed felt the pressure. He missed a 7-foot birdie putt and handed Stricker, the No. 2 seed in the Ben Hogan bracket, a second-round win.

The victory set up an intriguing third-round matchup against fellow American and good friend Hunter Mahan.

Stricker and Mahan were first teammates at the 2007 Presidents Cup in Montreal and were also on the 2010 Ryder Cup team together.

"It's tough playing against a friend," Stricker said of today's matchup. "You have to put that friendship aside for a day and try to beat him."

It won't be the first time the two friends compete at the WGC- Accenture Match Play Championship. In 2008, Stricker outlasted Mahan in 20 holes in the second round.

"Steve has a great perspective on life because he was a great player early on, and then he kind of lost it," Mahan said. "Then, he worked his butt off to get back to this position and being a top-5 player in the world. It's pretty amazing. He's a great guy to talk to. He's so open, so nice."

Mahan put on a show Thursday in his second-round win over Y.E. Yang. The former Oklahoma State standout birdied five straight holes on the front nine and closed out Yang on the 15th, winning 5 and 3.

"I was playing as well as I could, hitting fairways and greens, giving myself good looks," Mahan said.

It's the second straight year Mahan has advanced to the third round of Match Play.

"You have got to be mentally strong," Mahan said. "The more times you play, the more experience you have."

Kuchar feels the heat

Matt Kuchar walked off the course after his 3 and 2 win over Bubba Watson, ready for some rest, thanks to the stressful style of match play.

"I only played 16 holes today, but I'm ready to go home and have a nap," Kuchar said.

Kuchar never trailed in his match against Watson, and it seemed like a relatively easy win. However, the No. 4 seed in the Ben Hogan bracket said it was never easy, and that's because of the different format.

"I think match play is much more taxing than stroke play," Kuchar said.

"Three-footers are somewhat casual in stroke play. In match play it seems like there's more riding on it."

Kuchar will face Martin Kaymer today.

Rematch

Dustin Johnson came into this year's event with no previous wins.

After beating Francesco Molinari 7 and 5 in Thursday's second round, the 27-year-old American will get a rematch with one of the golfers that sent him home with a first-round loss: fellow American Mark Wilson.

Wilson beat Johnson in 19 holes last year.

"He's a great match play player," Johnson said. "It will be a tough match."

Johnson was one of seven American winners on the day, joining Stricker, Mahan, Kuchar, Wilson, Brandt Snedeker and Nick Watney.

Pressure off of Kaymer

Now that Kaymer, the No. 1 seed in the Ben Hogan bracket, is in the third round, the German can take a deep breath.

Playing as a top seed for the first time in this tournament, Kaymer said the early rounds can be the most difficult for the favorites.

"Obviously I was ranked No. 1 in my bracket, and everybody is expecting me to win," Kaymer said. "I expect myself to win. It's very tiring.

"Once you win the first two, you are in the tournament. You are in rhythm."

Kaymer made it to last year's final, losing to Luke Donald 3 and 2.

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