HUMBLE, Texas -- At some point, Steve Stricker may have to turn down all the requests for putting lessons.
Since straightening out Tiger Woods stroke, Stricker has somewhat facetiously become known as the tour's resident expert on the greens. He's still taking grief for it and a handful of players have asked him for instruction at the Shell Houston Open.
SHELL HOUSTON OPEN
''I'm hearing it all over the place,'' Stricker said. ''Some of them are joking and I think some are serious.''
Stricker is happy to help, but doesn't want to be distracted from his own game. He talked about balancing the two with Dave Stockton, who developed a reputation as a putting guru when he was on tour and now coaches several players.
''He said, what you have to do is, if you're going to help a guy, just tell the guy, 'You never got help from me, so the word doesn't get out,''' Stricker said. ''That's not the way I am, I guess. Makes sense that you still have to pay attention to what you're doing. Otherwise, you get caught up in everybody else and what they need to fix in their game and your game goes by the wayside all of a sudden.''
Maybe more than ever, Stricker seems to have his focus in the right place.
The 46-year-old Stricker is scheduled to play only 11 events this year. So far, he's making the most of his limited opportunities, with $1.82 million earned in his three starts.
''It's only been three events, but I notice the change in myself playing so far,'' Stricker said. ''I feel like there's a little bit less pressure on me to perform well, for whatever reason.''
These days, Stricker won't pick up a club for more than a week after playing in a tournament, then resume practicing about five days before leaving for the next one. After finishing second to Woods at Doral, he returned home to Wisconsin and took in some basketball at the Big 10 tournament in Chicago the following week.
''I always have come out and done fairly well when I'm fresh,'' Stricker said. ''Whether that's a mental thing, I don't know. But I enjoy coming out. I feel like I'm a little bit easier on myself, I'm fresher mentally.''
He's back at one of his favorite tournaments this week, the one he credits with reviving his career in 2006.
Stricker finished 162nd on the money list in 2005, and needed a sponsor's exemption from Tournament Director Steve Timms to play in the Houston Open the following year. He shot a 66 in the final round to finish third, the first of seven top-10s in 2006, and was later named the tour's comeback player of the year.
''It brings back a lot of good memories,'' Stricker said. ''(Timms) gave me a spot in '06, when I needed a spot. Played well, and went on to play well that year and ever since really. As long as I'm eligible to come here, I probably will.''