By Tony Jimenez
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Most of the 97-strong field with designs on sporting the coveted Green Jacket are keen on playing their way into tip-top shape ahead of this week's Masters but Steve Stricker almost takes the opposite approach.
The world number 15 is an advocate of less is more as far as tournament action is concerned and has only featured on the PGA Tour three times this year, his best effort being a tie for 24th in the Houston Open on Sunday.
"Last week was my preparation," Stricker told reporters on Monday. "I needed to get some competitive rounds under my belt.
"I have not had a lot of those yet this year so I played Houston and got some good practice in. It was good to get out there and work on a few things."
Stricker's ranking has benefited from the 'less is more' theory in recent years and his strategy seems to have paid off in other areas too.
"There are some positives to being this way," said the 47-year-old American. "Poor shots don't affect me as much and I just give myself a break.
"I'm much easier on myself out on the golf course because I am fresher. I've never been a guy who plays a lot of tournaments back to back - now even more so I don't play a lot."
Much like his Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup playing partner Tiger Woods, Stricker has had to cope with several injuries in recent seasons and his sporadic competitive outings have allowed him more recovery time.
"I've had some issues over the last two or three years," said the American ahead of his 14th Masters appearance.
"I had a herniated disc both in my neck and my back and I've got through those without surgery. I've done a lot of physical therapy and treatment so I didn't have to do surgery.
"I think the lack of play has definitely helped in that department. I feel as good as I've ever felt to tell you the truth."
Stricker, who is still looking to record his first victory in a major, said this week's Masters would not have the same buzz without world number one Woods who is sidelined after undergoing back surgery.
"His absence is tough on the tournament," said the veteran. "Any time he's in a tournament he draws so much attention.
"We're all going to miss him here. For sure we need him back playing golf and being healthy."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)